Stars fall down in you

And love is only heaven away...

And love is only heaven away…

Exactly ten years ago today, you and I looked at each other for the first time in our lives. We had been chatting and I mentioned I was going to Makati for some reason or other. I had also mentioned that I had never had the chance to read Neil Gaiman. You suggested we meet up so that you could introduce me to Gaiman, believing that I was missing half my life.

Leading up to the meeting, I was so nervous and giddy. It felt like something important was going to happen. When I got off the train station at Ayala, we were texting, where are we going to meet? We actually texted each other that question at the same time. We also reacted the same, “Sync!” we said. The first of many. But that first time, you said, “If this is really a sync, let’s not set a place and see if we still find each other anyway.”

We set a place, though. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Greenbelt 3. I had told you a few days before that I was obsessed with men with large angel wings. And you plopped down a copy of Neverwhere and Murder Mysteries, which was a graphic novel full of naked men with angel wings. I felt that day ten years ago that something very important did happen to me, and that my life was never going to be the same.

When you left me forever, I discovered so many things out of sync. Losing you hurt enough, and suddenly all these things you kept from me came out of nowhere and just hurt me some more. It was very difficult to accept. Where was the man who loved me all these years, who made me feel like I was the only woman in the world? Many times these past four months, I would find myself in a very dark place, unconsolable. Angry. From the start, I forced myself to be the bigger person, the forgiving one. But it just destroyed me, I think. So I decided to stop forgiving you and allow myself to be angry.

These past months, I would involuntarily picture random places in my mind. That corner of EDSA and Buendia. The walkway from Greenbelt to Rufino. RCBC plaza. The friendship route that passes through Philam. The stretch of road that leads to Charlie’s and Poco Deli. The corner of EDSA and Reliance. The outside patio of Coffee Bean in Greenbelt 3. But only the places, never any people or any actual memories. I realise, these are images I’ve captured in my head when I’m on my way to you. So although I don’t want to remember you, my brain has found a way to subtly remind me.

I still find no sense in how and why you left me forever four months ago. Sometimes, I am still angry. But I forgive you. I comfort myself with the belief that for all those years, I was capable of a love so great and true. You did make it easy for me for the first six years. For the last four years, you made it very, very difficult, but I loved you anyway. I find it satisfying that I am capable of that.

And you will forgive me for falling in love with someone else. Maybe it will be as strong as how I loved you. Maybe I will eventually love him more. Maybe not. But I will always remember you. I posted this for you before, and it resonates so much more today than it ever did:

I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember.
Somewhere inside of me there will always be the person I am tonight.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
Happy ten years, Bliebie. See you when the world ends.

4 months

Once upon a time, I used to be a girl somebody couldn’t wait to talk to when he woke up in the morning.

Once upon a time, I was a girl who made a man giggle and go “hee hee.”

Once upon a time, I had a love that was to last forever. I suppose I will love you forever, even if I didn’t get my happy ending. In ten days, it would be ten years since I first met you face to face. No happy ending, but wow, those were really happy ten years, Bliebie. I’m grateful, I really am. I just miss you, sometimes, and I miss how you loved me.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 12.15.33 AM

6 year old birthday selfie


Proof that Mikah took selfies. 🙂

Marga commented on this 2008 photo, that I should be frowning, too. I said, it was my birthday, I couldn’t help but smile. But also that it was so us, the serious, sungit boy and the giddy girl.

The last two months, I would despair over whether I made him happy enough or not. I know, it’s a horrible thing to think about. I would look at our pictures together and be reassured by those where he was smiling. But looking at this photo, I remember that day, after dinner at my house, he was trying to take photos of me and demanding I pose, and I would give him stupid poses and he would take pics anyway. And I’d be giggling like a hyena and he would be grinning at me indulgently.

I can believe we were happy together the last ten years. You never gave me reason to believe otherwise. I had a happy birthday, Bliebie. 🙂

Day 7 of #500HappyMikahDays

To his son, Mikah

Day 6 of #500HappyMikahDays

Not a day from my memories, but a lifetime of someone else’s memories. Because it is Fathers Day today.


I loved this photo of him because he is surrounded by bulols and a ballerina. He used to have a tiny bulul hanging from his rearview mirror, then one day it just disappeared. So I bought him a slightly bigger one and another for myself. He was so excited to show me this pic. “Look at the company I keep!” he said. This was from a photo shoot for his band, Helen. – Joelle

[MIKAH AZURIN is the brilliant drummer who co-founded and wrote original music for the metal band Brimstone in Fire, the jazz band Quail Quartet, and the drum-and-bass band Helen. He also wrote elegant software and was a top IT solutions architect for a major telecoms firm. He passed away unexpectedly on April 30, 2014.]


There, where you are, the music never dies

By René Azurin
Philippine Daily Inquirer
5:48 am | Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Dearest Mikah,

I can relate, in a way I couldn’t before, to the song lyric, “the day the music died”. Though written about the passing of another musician, it was what happened to us the morning of your sudden, totally unexpected, departure. The music literally died in our home that terrible day. Gone are the sounds of you beating out unique and innovative rhythms on your drums. Gone now too are even the pop oldies your mother would play on the stereo to keep the house infused with song. There is only quiet now. It is the silence of utter sadness.

We – your mother, your sister Sarah, and I – are absolutely devastated. Your going has sucked out not only the music but also the laughter that we as a very close family privately shared. The pain is indescribable. With horror, we contemplate the void now gawking in the very center of our lives. You gave us such joy, Mikah. Your mother doted on you. Your sister adored you. I, oh wow, I was in awe of you. With the way you combined genius mind and compassionate heart, it was impossible not to be.

From the day of your birth when you looked up at us from your isolette with already seeing eyes that seemed to say, ‘I know stuff’, we instinctively felt that we had been privileged to be visited by an old, wise, and innately beautiful soul. We did our best as parents to deserve that precious gift but, if we disappointed in any way, you ought to know that it was never from lack of love or priority. Maybe 39 years of that privilege was really more than we deserved. But, now, facing the fact that we will have to go the rest of our ways without our beloved pride and joy is profoundly unsettling.

You have now moved on to other planes, other dimensions of existence; we understand that, but we cannot yet cope with it. I honestly don’t know if we will really ever be able to.

So, these interminable numbing days that bleed indistinguishably into each other, we wander the house in a trance-like state, sitting in the places where you used to sit with your laptop, caressing the pillow where you lay your head, smelling your towel and shirts, touching the things you touched, sliding our fingers over the skins of your drums and holding out your drumsticks as if entreating you to, please, take them and tap out a rhythm. For long periods, we stare at your pictures in the frames we have around the sala and terrace.

There is a picture of you as a baby hunched over a book. Just 5 months old and your mother and I would catch you sitting up in your crib at 3 AM, looking intently at the pages of whatever picture book we had placed beside you. You started then and never stopped your voracious reading. I remember preparing to go on a trip when you were about 11 and you handing me a list of books that you wanted me to bring home – about 50 of them. Much of that trip was spent scouring San Francisco book shops to fill that order.

I stand before your bookshelves now and take in the breadth and depth of your fabulous intellect. Science by Einstein and Hawking. Classic fiction by Melville, Orwell, Murakami, and Lessing. Poetry by Rilke and Neruda. The ruminations of Borges. Assorted history and philosphy. Classic science-fiction by Clarke and Asimov. Carl Sagan’s Broca’s Brain. Sam Harris’s The End of Faith. Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape. Zecharia Sitchin’s Stairway to Heaven. And, of course, your favorites: the modern science-fiction/fantasies of Gene Wolfe, Iain Banks, Stephen Donaldson, and Neil Gaiman. Perhaps the strange worlds those writers imagined mirrored the ‘stuff’ you knew about the way the universe actually is.

A conversation with you was always something to look forward to. Talking to you about anything – from how to use a bass trap to improve the acoustics in a room, to how to choose hay for your rabbits and what treats not to give your dog Oscar, to ice ages and the 10 dimensions of string theory – invariably left one stimulated and enlightened. From whom else could one get such perceptiveness and insight on chaos theory or the action of superheated gases or the sociological origins of human behavior or the basis of morality and questions of good and evil? We mused, you and I, on the silliness of organized religion and raged about the anomalous character of our politics.

In any event, it seemed obvious that you had developed – and were evolving – an understanding of the underlying structure of the cosmos and that you were already seeing more than others, certainly more than I ever could. With a brilliantly creative mind and an education in applied physics, you, I suspect, had begun to catch glimpses of the nature of the multiple dimensions beyond this puny material world that we humans inhabit. I wish there had been more time to have discussed your ideas and speculations with you.

I wish I had let you teach me to play the drums.

Music was your passion but I.T. was your profession. One of your office colleagues remarked that the legacy you would leave them was “an aspiration to excellence”. Yes, that’s so you. Your sister Sarah recalls how you taught her how to write computer programs. She recalls how you handed her a complex piece of software and told her to find all the bugs in it; after she had done so and presented these to you, you then said, “Now fix it.” Later, you patiently took her through all those long lines of code and showed her the difference between code that merely worked and code that was “elegant”. You were that: the epitome of “elegance”. Years after, when you expressed pride in Sarah’s programming prowess to some I.T. industry professionals, you would omit telling them who the programming guru was from whom she learned to code elegantly.

Here’s something you’d find interesting, Mikah. Recent academic research – as reported by writer Jordan Taylor Sloan –has demonstrated that “drummers’ brains are actually different from everybody else’s”. Researchers have apparently discovered a clear link “between intelligence, good timing, and the part of the brain used for problem-solving”. Scientists now say that not only do good drummers “have a rare, innate ability to problem-solve” but that they also can “transfer that natural intelligence to others” through, it seems, “the effects of rhythms on brains”.

Sloan reports, “Researchers at Harvard found that drummers harness a different sort of internal clock that moves in waves, rather than linearly as a real clock does. They match an innate rhythm that has been found in human brainwaves, heart rates during sleep and even the auditory nerve firings in cats. When a human drummer plays, he or she finds a human rhythm.” Maybe, Sloan suggests, drummers “are people tapped into a fundamental undercurrent of what it means to be human, people around whom bands and communities form.” Intriguing stuff ha?

In your musical journey, you wrote and played the music of your metal band Brimstone in Fire, your jazz band Quail Quartet, and your drum-and-bass band Helen. Unfortunately, now, all that’s left to us are some videos of these on youtube. I watch these now and regret what I missed from missing your gigs in recent years. The talent, prodigious skill, and the creativeness. From the lyrics you wrote, Mikah, I am drawn now to this piece of poetry:

Tear up the maps and walk past the edges 
Out to the zones where monsters will be 
They’re waiting to teach you the wisdom you’re needing 
So sit at their feet and learn how to see.

You always wrote beautifully, Mikah. Hmmm, sonny, what magical things are you seeing and learning now?

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is written: “For that which is born, death is certain, and for that which is dead, birth is certain; therefore, grieve not over that which is unavoidable.” Sadly, there is – for your mother, for your sister Sarah, and for me – no way for us not to grieve intensely. But, if those ancient lines can offer any comfort, it is that they mean that nothing is ever final. There are no final goodbyes.

This, at least, your mother and I will not have to regret: that we hugged you every time we saw you and that we said ‘I love you Mikah’ every time we said good night, whether in person or via text. We will love you forever, Mikah. And, wherever you might fly, we will see you again. That’s a promise. What a thing to look forward to: you pounding away on the drum skins of the universe and imparting an elegant human rhythm to the vibrating strings of the cosmos. There where you are, the music never dies.

All our love always,
(The author, René Azurin, is a management consultant, professor, and writer.)

Shortened version here:

Pictures of me

Day 5 of #500HappyMikahDays

Mikah loves taking pictures of me, and we would joke that his real dream was to become a fashion photographer – not that he really wanted to be one, but when he took photos of me, he would harass me into posing. And I hate posing. He would  point out pictures of other people who were posing, and say, “Why can’t you do that?”

This email he sent was a photo he took of me while waiting for our food in Wingman, in Makati. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you can tell which photo this is; it has been my profile pic on more than one occasion. The exchange after he sent this never fails to make me smile.

wingman email

Is the #100HappyDays meme supposed to be everyday? I don’t think I can commit to every day, I have too many things to do. But I’ll try to post up a day as often as I can.

The point of this is for me to remember Mikah fondly and to stop being so angry at him, to stop feeling so lost about the pointlessness of his death. I know I will meet somebody I will love maybe as much, but I will not be using that person to replace who Mikah was in my life. I will love that person differently, as he deserves. These 500 days will remind me of my capacity to give and receive love and remind me to know when it’s real and when somebody’s just blowing smoke up my ass. My happy memories of Mikah will help me move on with my life, and to stop regretting all the would have, should have, could have beens.

I know what Mikah and I had is over. But I still want to remember him, the good he brought out in me, the good I brought out in him. Thank you for letting me share this.


Day 4 of #500HappyMikahDays

We don’t have an anniversary. When people ask him when our anniversary was, he says, “In the early morning.”

I celebrate the day we met – in person, not online – which is September 10, 2004. I just send him a message that says, “We’ve known each other X years!” and he responds with, “Let’s celebrate!” And while celebrating, he or I would say to the other, “Happy X years.”

But we weren’t really a couple from the start, because he was in the process of breaking up with Annette, with whom he had a long distance relationship. I suppose I was there to make him feel better about the situation. We kept our burgeoning involvement a secret for a while, even after they had broken up. (Which is why I knew he could do that to me, but that’s never going on any of the #500HappyMikahDays, sorry).

He wasn’t a complete asshole to either of us and I liked that he told me that he needed to mourn Annette for a while. I told him I hung out with him not because I expected anything of him (augh, famous last words, right) but because hanging out with him made me happy. That could have been when he fell in love with me. Most probably.

When he finally broke up with Annette, he called me up and asked if he could hang out in my house, because there were two gigs he was expected at, not to play but just for hanging out, but he couldn’t deal with seeing all Annette’s friends at that moment. I said it might not be a good idea, my house wasn’t a very good venue for mourning Annette. And then he said please. We spent the evening lying together in my living room couch, my arms around him, giving comfort.

I asked him, “Why are you here?”

He said, “Because you make me happy.”