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  • How do you say happy birthday to someone who is dying?

    The question tumbled in my brain that evening. Thousands of miles away it was already my cousin's birthday. Her 39th.

    Would there be cake? Candles? Would her cancer allow her to celebrate? Could it even be called a happy birthday? Probably not. So scratch out “happy”. Just birthday.

    But merely pointing out her birthday isn’t much of a greeting, given that it was likely her final year on this Earth. And how do I express my selfish gladness and relief that she was still alive and fighting?

    I conjured up a memory from 18 years ago, back to a pair of sandals that I had bought for 400 pesos (less than $10). She, more than once, had urged me to toss these sorry-looking sandals.

    I'm glad I didn't listen to her. In lieu of “happy”, I sent her a text (with her that was the only possible form of direct communication) and a photo of the sandals she loved to ridicule, hoping it would bring her even just a fleeting moment of joy.

    “For your birthday I though I’d send you a photo of your favourite sandals. Ok pa naman ang Otto ko diba? Thinking about you. We love you.”

    My phone said the message was delivered. I hope she got it and that she smiled on her birthday.
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