Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dying Young

This will be a quick post. I have actually started a couple of other posts the past months, but all have remained as drafts. Some were on the early stages, a few need only a paragraph or two to wrap up. Much as I wanted to, I could not bring myself to put the final touches and publish them. Perhaps my muse had left me?

I sit in front of my computer today, a Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. I am thinking, maybe I should also stop my abstinence from writing on my blog and start anew. Maybe I should go back to the drafts of my unpublished entries and finish them once and for all. Or maybe I should write about something new on my mind?

In a month's time, my family from the US will be descending on our little town for my mother's 10th death anniversary. We will also celebrate my father's 83rd birthday, and my brother's 50th. Throw in the November 1/2 observance of All Souls and All Saints, and it will indeed be a celebration of life and death - the inevitable cycle for all of us.

So why the melodramatic title of this post?

A little over a week ago, I got a text message from a good friend from San Francisco, in sunny California. He was using his Philippine number, which made me suspect that he was actually in the Philippines. Well, turned out he really was. He came home, rather abruptly, to attend to a very sick sister. He did not see her alive anymore. She died one day before his scheduled flight, and she was only 44 years old.

If you asked me twenty years ago, I would say that would be a good age to pass on - in fact a bit too late. In my younger years, I would fancy dying before the age of forty. I thought there's just too many problems in the world, and by the time I reached that age I would have achieved what I needed to accomplish, plus some more - good or bad. There is no need to plod on and see my skin all wrinkled. That would not have looked good on me as I lay on an open casket. All those movies about dying young and leaving everyone bereaved and devastated had the hopeless romantic in me all fired up. I imagined myself in the peak of my life, shining brightly in a firmament full of stars dimmed by my brilliance - and then suddenly disappearing in a burst of luminous shower in the sky. Talk about drama!

But here I am, all of 43 years old and looking forward to growing old gracefully - never mind the wrinkles and aching joints. Well, it helped that the Church is now more open to cremation, and I do not have to worry about people talking about my wrinkles as they view my remains. They would be raving about my Photoshopped portrait instead! I have seen the light.

Over recent years, I have grown fond of reading through the obituaries and found special interest on people who died young. When I am in the memorial park, or when I had to attend wakes in chapels or funeral parlors, I would look around and check for people who died young. I would imagine how they died, and what could have been of the people they left behind. Did they die of accidents? Or did they die of lingering illnesses? Could there have been foul play? Or maybe they took their own lives?

How did those they left behind cope with their early departure? What if they have a young family, with kids deprived of a parent? As the youngest in the brood, if fate would take its natural course, I will have the unpleasant task of burying my parents and my siblings. I already went through burying my mother 10 years ago, and it was such a painful experience that the melancholy still lingers up to this time. I dread the day of the inevitable.

Maybe that was partly the reason for my fascination for dying young. Subconsciously, I may have wanted to escape that dreadful task. I want people to cry for me, to pine for my presence, to wax eloquent about my worthy life in a heartfelt eulogy during my memorial service. My fate is otherwise. If I would be blessed with a long life, I would be standing by the coffins of all those dear to me, crying for them, pining for them and feeling all alone. Dying young would have been more dramatic - romantic even.

But the years weave its magic on weary souls like mine. Warts and all, life has been good to me. As we add numbers and digits to our ages, we acquire a different appreciation for our lives. As we mature, we start looking at mistakes as lessons, challenges as opportunities and failures as just another reason to try harder next time. Love gained and lost through the many colorful episodes of our lives give a different dimension to the endless cycle of sleeping and waking up. The days when we look forward to waking up to a new day, and the forlorn days when we hope the morning never comes - all these makes life such a wonderful and joyful journey into the unknown. And it can all end in a snap.

I always say yes whenever people ask me if I am ready to go. But the truth is, I am not. Not that I am not ready, but its just that I do not want to go. Not yet anyway. In fact, I am enjoying life so much I want to live forever if I can. Maybe God designed it that way, that our lives can be taken from us at anytime - even at the least expected time, so we can learn to appreciate each day and each moment. So we can take time to look at the scenery as we travel through life, talk to people, love them - even hate them if we must. Each day, each experience, each person bring lessons that enrich our own lives, and each new day is more exciting than the previous day - if only for the fact that you are still alive. Who would want to die young?

Like power, life is addictive the longer we have it.

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