July 28, 2012

Cheers, Gabby

It was June 12, Independence Day. I got a call from my friend, Monday, shortly after lunch. She was hysterical on the phone. My husband, who was having a late lunch, stopped eating and just looked at me from the dining table, instantly alarmed. All he could hear from me were…”WHAAAT???”…….” WHY????”….”HOW???” and then, “I don’t understand…….I don’t understand…..”

And just like that, he somehow knew that something really, really bad happened.

In between Monday’s sobs, I somehow pieced the story together. Our friend Gabby, an avid surfer, was found face down, unconscious, on the shore of La Union--his surf board still tied to his leg. The doctors weren’t able to revive him. Hearing this and finally making sense of what Monday was trying so hard to tell me, I sobbed uncontrollably but tried to muffle the sound with a pillow so as not to scare my girls (they’re too young to understand grief).

He had been my friend for more than 20 years. When we were young, he would always sleep over in my apartment. We would drink beer while listening to Ehead songs.  We went to so many parties, so many drinking sessions, so many nights-out, and some out-of-town vacations together. I have an abundant collection of his memories.

We rarely saw each other in recent years because he devoted his weekends to surfing and Frisbee with his other friends but he would text, tweet or comment on my blog. He was never really away, until now.

I broke down when I went to the wake and saw him in his casket. “Gabby….” I kept on saying, almost in a whisper. A former officemate, Sue Ann, hugged me tight right after and we both cried quietly on each other’s shoulders. That scene would be repeated many times over as Gabby’s friends and relatives arrive one by one, group by group, in the wake.

Stories were then shared about Gabby—his being a geek, a fierce nationalist, an avid surfer, biker and Frisbee player, a brilliant writer (in the country’s biggest Tv network), a stutterer, a klutz, a devoted son, an easy-to-please guy, a kid at heart, and a major, major party boy.

Then someone thought that Gabby wouldn’t want such a somber mood for his memorial service. Soon after, beer cans were passed around and the music of U2 and FrancisM blared in the air.

A relative of Gabby then took the mic. I thought he was going to say his eulogy but instead he asked if everyone was holding a drink. Then he raised his beer and said, “To Gabby…’ to which everyone replied, “Cheers!”

So cheers, Gabby. You were truly one of a kind, 'til the very end. We love you. We miss you.