Perhaps It Was Better Not To Say Goodbye

I am writing today without any clear direction on where this would go. I am thinking that if I put this under the Personal Journal category, maybe the audience would be more forgiving for the lack of essence.

My dear friend passed away without any opportunity to say goodbye. I don’t even know the exact day he left. I could reach out to his daughter or son but I am not ready to talk about it. However, during the quiet moments of my day, I can feel the heaviness of loss in my chest.

He was my editor, an American war veteran based in California and I am a Filipina based in Manila. Both of us are members of the AWAI (American Writers and Artists Institute). The realm of writers was our common world for fourteen years. Fourteen years weren’t enough to understand each other’s creative perspectives on storytelling taking into consideration our different cultural backgrounds plus a generation gap of 16 years. When editing my work, he would send me probing questions. They were more like attempts to understand my point of view, and where I was coming from. He never let any written piece go as it was like the world’s future depended on its precision.

He was hard on most people around him but mostly on himself. It all started when he was sent out to defend his country during the Vietnam War. He suffered such conflict within himself because he respected the Vietnamese people. According to him, they were good, honest, hardworking people. They helped with their daily needs. Their cooks and errand boys were all Vietnamese. One minute he would be laughing and making stories with them and one minute he would be up there in AH-1 Cobra to engage Vietnamese troops after the scout buddies flying the “Loach’ helicopter had tipped them off about the signs of “the enemy” lurking below the bottom of the canopy. In other words, he was gunning down people he had so much respect for.

The years following the war were challenging for him. He harbored anger towards the US government and the world in general. He struggled to cope. He acquired professional psychological help and bought self-development books. He bought emotional healing courses at He used marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes daily to keep him calm; it enabled him to have restful nights. He stayed in the Force behind the scenes for another decade and became passionate about being a writer. He sold a lot of books and got great reviews because perhaps many war veterans could relate to his work.

I guess life couldn’t be kinder. At 74 years old, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. He was confused and couldn’t understand why the doctors were not telling him how long it would take to recover. He wanted to get well. He even contemplated buying a new writing course at AWAI. Six months after being diagnosed, he was ecstatic to tell me that he surpassed the timetable hinted at by his doctors.

To celebrate this sense of achievement, I sent him a cute mug, “I love you to the moon and back”. For me, in my smallest way, I wanted him to know that he was loved.

A few months after that, he could not email me anymore because he would feel excruciating pain on the sides of his chest when using the keyboard. So he dictated his messages to his son to email me. That went on for a couple of months. Eventually, no more emails were coming.

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