Death: A New Beginning

The year has barely began and here I am talking about endings. In particular, a very permanent ending – at least here, on this planet.

I do not mean to sound morbid but I am talking about death – the cessation of life. When one’s heart stops beating and the brain stops functioning. When all body systems simply stop functioning. Death.

2015 ended with the father of a close friend dying unexpectedly. 2016 opened with a close friend dying peacefully. And the month will close with another friend dying bravely.

It seems death has been all around me recently but it’s not the kind of deaths that will leave you depressed. Yes, death, being so final, is sad. Yes, there’s grief and I join the families and friends of these people whom I know in their grief. Yet, behind the grief, there’s hope that these people are in a better place.

I have never shied away from the topic of death. I believe this blog has so many posts concerning the topic. For me, death is not the end but just the beginning. The beginning of something greater. Something bigger. Something better.

The life we live on earth is only temporary. But no matter how temporary, it is meant to be lived to the fullest. These people who died all lived their lives to the full and I am blessed to have witnessed their lives and somehow been a part of it.

It’s inspiring to see how these people – Sir D, Tita Eva and Scud – have lived their lives to such a full that when they died, people flocked to them remembering everything they have accomplished. People shared stories of how they have been touched one way or another by the acts of these wonderful persons. And everyone, despite the sadness and pain of loss, had peace in their hearts because they knew and are confident that these three are now reaping their rewards in Heaven.

Someone recently shared to me her fears of death – about what lies ahead and what she’ll face when she dies. If there’s something we shouldn’t have to fear – that’s death. Death is not something we should be afraid of. We can be afraid of what will happen to our dependents when we die (hence we should be serious about our financial plans) but we should not be afraid of our deaths. Not if we know where we are going when we die and what lies ahead for us.

Not sure what happens after you die? The Bible is very clear that because we are sinners, when we die, we are destined for only one place – Hell. That’s the bad news. But it doesn’t end there. The good news is, because God loves us so much, He can’t take it that we would spend eternity in Hell. So He sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem us from our sins. Jesus paid the price for our sins. Hell, which is supposed to be our eternal punishment for every wrong thing we did here on earth, is no longer our destination. When we die, we can now go to Heaven and receive eternal life.

I said “we CAN” because there’s still something required of us. We are required to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. It’s a personal thing only we can do. It’s not something we inherit from our parents, it’s not something our religion can do for us, it’s not a decision someone else can impose on us. It’s a choice we have to make and a personal relationship we have to cultivate with our Maker.

So you see, Death is not the end. It’s the beginning. It’s the time when we will reunite with our Father in Heaven.

As Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

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Leaving a Lasting Legacy

It was my first time in Mindanao. It was supposed to be a business trip mixed with some personal R&R but it turned out to be a personal journey witnessing a life-changing event for a friend.

We knew his father was in the hospital but we pushed on with our agenda. When we emerged successful, we were ecstatic and grateful although a bit sad that he couldn’t be with us. He was our key. As it turned out, he has secured our future.

In the middle of dinner, we were told there was an emergency. And in the dead of the night we rushed to his side. We were literally flying at speeds of almost 160kph, traversing dark roads to get to the hospital in time.

Along the way, I learned that he was gone but I dare not tell it to my friend who was driving for fear of upsetting him. When we arrived, I prepared myself to be strong for what I knew lies ahead.

It was an unexpected death- one no one saw coming. We knew he was sick but there were so many plans that we made involving him, it was hard to imagine.

While it was hard for me to swallow, I can’t begin to imagine how it must be for my friend who never really saw it coming. I can’t begin to imagine how it must be for my friend’s mother who loved Tito so much, her life was literally intertwined with his.

I have only witnessed two deaths – my lola and my friend’s father. All the other deaths I’ve seen are when the body is already in the casket.

The sadness was in the air. It was past midnight yet there were a lot of people by the hospital’s crying room. Everyone was recounting the last moments with Tito. I looked at my friend. Despite the tears in his eyes, I saw the determination – the determination to continue his father’s legacy.

LEGACY

Sir Daniel Ines is known for being a hard working man. At age 60, he still took the bar exam and most probably would pass when the results are released later this year. This was his second time to take the exam. Having failed his first attempt at the Bar did not deter him from taking it again in order to become a lawyer. This is despite having an already successful CPA practice both as a private auditor and a COA auditor.

I learned that he has served in 10 municipalities and cities around Sultan Kudarat as a COA (Commission on Audit) Auditor. He also teaches at a local college and is active in the church leadership. He has raised a family of 7 with 5 kids, three of whom are boys. One has become a CPA just like him.

We spent days planning our itinerary but at the last minute it turned out to be something we didn’t expect nor hoped for. We spent the time helping our friend prepare for the wake that would definitely be jampacked with people – people he has touched and helped throughout the years.

As I assisted in the preparations and watched the people around me, the stories I heard about him made me admire Tito for the man he really is. The short time I have spent with him, I was already amazed by his wisdom and the dedication he displayed. I had looked forward to learning more from him but God had other plans. Now, all I can do was listen to others stories about him.

Yet, even in his death, he has taught me a very valuable lesson. A life that is lived excellently, working tirelessly and dedicatedly, without looking at what others would say or seeking the applause of men, will earn you the greatest reward of all.

Every person I spoke with will tell me that Tito is now in a better place. And they say it with conviction. Behind the pain and sadness in their eyes, there is peace in their spirit that their loved one, is enjoying his just reward in Heaven.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

And that is the kind of life I want to live.

A Good Life, A Good Death

I’ve always believed that there’s a good way to die. You can die by an accident or by a disease or illness but there’s always a better way. And that is to die in your sleep.

And then there’s a great way to be buried. I’ve encountered many deaths in the family – of aunts and uncles- and the state of the wake and burial has always been the same. There’s the casket, the wake and the traditions around it and then the mass before the burial.

Witnessing all this time and time again made me think — I want something different. Even in death I wanted something else.

I don’t want people to see me in a casket. I don’t want their last memory of me to be a dead body in a box. I want them to remember how I looked when I was fully alive. I also want a memorial service where people would speak about me – tell their personal stories of our encounters and remember me with songs and eulogies.

I envision my wake and burial to be a series of nights, with the people I know and loved present, gazing at my many photos and speaking (hopefully good) things about me. Of course no casket should be present for my remains are now in an urn.

Most of all, though there is grief and sadness because I won’t be with them anymore, I hope there will be joy that I am now where I’ve always longed to be – heaven.

Last week, I had the chance to witness the kind of death and burial I wanted. The person also lived a life worth emulating. She died in her sleep, fully prepared to meet her Maker and Savior. When she left earth she was able to lead a well-lived life having inspired hundreds, probably thousands, of people.

Dr. Eva Villanueva, known to me as Tita Eva, was a kind, old lady I met when I was in 4th year college. She was the CRL Council Chair and I was a student elder. For one year, we worked together in the council bringing about change in the church.

She was the one who taught me how to take down minutes of a meeting properly along the way inculcating in my mind the value of excellence at work. She taught me how to aim for perfection but be gracious when mistakes are made. She taught me that in my quest for excellence, I am allowed to make mistakes but I must learn from them.

She was the proponent of UPCYM’s Buffet Ministry. A food feeding program which gives free lunch and dinner to qualified students. I remember clearly during one council meeting, she announced that she was shocked that there are students who ate only one meal a day – those meals being only bread and instant noodles. I told her how true it was – me being one of those students. She was aghast and unable to believe the fact. Promptly she committed to sending me nutritious and well-prepared food every day until I graduated. Ate Mara, her maid, would bring me food every other day that are balanced and would last me for two days. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner – occasionally snacks and even dessert.

Her meals helped me get by through the most tedious moments of my college life. It was my final year and times were tought. When I asked her how I can ever repay her, she said — don’t pay me. Pay it forward. 

Tita Eva has taught me the value of generosity. She taught me how pay it forward works and how to give without expecting anything in return. In a world where people are more concerned about their own welfare, she showed me how to be genuinely concerned for others.

As Carissa, her granddaughter said, Tita Eva showed us how simplicity and humility goes a long way. Tta Eva could buy anything she wants. She’s a rich lady. But she was always frugal and bought only simple things. She did not spend frivolously.

And because of these, she has learned to be generous. To put others before her needs.

Until the end, Tita Eva served the Lord. Her pastor shared how committed she was to teach the Senior Citizen Bible Study even after having been advised by her doctor to take it easy.

Tita Eva led a life well-lived. And until the end, people remembered her for the kind of lady she was – generous, loving, simple, elegant and God-fearing.

I can imagine God telling her, “well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Dying Superstitiously

How come that in our culture there are simply a lot of superstitions surrounding death, some of them even sounding really absurd? We are all familiar with the superstition that one must consume all food or beverage taken from a wake and must at no occasion bring it home with him as this would merit ill luck. 

My relatives have taken that superstition to a new height. Apparently, they also thought that one must have no left-overs after the burial and since there were a lot of raw meat left in the fridge, well, they had to cook them all and serve them to everyone. 

Then again, another superstition I have recently heard, and an even more absurd one, is that when a woman is widowed because it was her husband who died, then she should be quarantined (parang virus lang eh) in the sense that no other married woman must lay eyes on her lest they also lose their husbands. Now, ain’t that absurd! If it is a person’s time to die, it is his time to die. Period.

Well to satisfy superstitious people, my lola gave way to such practice but when they were all gone, she still met with her daugher-in-laws and even my aunt who is recently married. How would she really live if she won’t be surrounded by people. Grief, especially one that begets loneliness, should always make a person be surrounded by people so as to ward off the lonely feeling. So why should someone be quarantined just because of silly superstitions?

Well, this is afterall our culture. Superstitions make our culture colorful and lively. But if we let them rule our lives, then woe to us indeed.

Not Afraid to Die

 

 

I think I don’t know how to grieve too well. Or maybe I am already made of ice and as such is able to treat all emotions with a critical eye. 
My grandfather just died. Although I am not utterly close to him, I know I should still feel some pang of sadness or grief. But I am afraid that my emotions are just close to numb – nothing; neutral. I do not feel anything. I have not even shed a tear. I am more concerned about what would happen to the family now that he is gone – will his siblings finally voice out against his wife? Will chaos ensue now that the pillar is gone? Furthermore I am relieved that his suffering has ended. 
In the past weeks, his life has been mercilessly extended by modern medical equipments – whereas in the past he should have been dead at the start of the month, thanks to medical inventions, he managed to live till the end of the month. But then the amount of discomfort and pain to him must have been great – not to mention the embarrassment he must have endured or the anxiety he must have felt over his situation. Embarrassed because his kids who needs to look after him were able to see him naked – changing diapers and clothes – and anxiety because he knows all the medical attention he is receiving is expensive and costly. 
I know my grandfather wasn’t senile when he died. There were just a lot of complications in his body like difficulty in breathing ultimately resulting to his inability to talk and express himself. They even said that there were times wherein he would fight off the nurse who administers his suero – I guess he was already resisting medication. And so to me, it is good that he is dead. That he now rests in peace. And maybe that’s why I cannot grieve like the rest. 
This year, or maybe the past couple of months, a lot of people I personally know, and not personally know, have passed from this world. My grand aunt, that is my grandfather’s older sister died last December. She was somehow close to me when I was in high school but even then I knew she was already suffering from the complications of diabetes. Not only that she has had a lot of emotional baggage caused about by the inattention of her children and the over attention of her siblings. So it was a relief for her to die. Then came January, one of the persons I considered a lola because she cared for me when I was young, also passed away. She was also suffering from the complications of diabetes but unfortunately she doesn’t have the money to access sufficient medical care to alleviate her situation. So it was again a relief for her to die. And then I have a friend, who was suffering from leukemia. She had to undergo several chemotheraphy sessions and apparently that was still no guarantee of her wellness. Just when everyone thought she was ok and recovering, the disease struck again and before further medications could be made, she was dead. Again, it was a relief for her to die for she won’t have to suffer anymore. 
And then there are the more famous deaths of Michael Jackson, which has been ruled as a homicide lately, and not suicide as suspected and the recent death of Pres. Cory Aquino, which took from the country one of the greatest president’s it has ever known (according to the tributes). For MJ, I do not know if it was a relief for him to die but for Cory, I know it was. She was also suffering before her death. Apparently, death appears to be a relief from suffering. Not just physical suffering but emotional ones as well. 
Death is an escape from this imperfect world into the after life beyond. Of course the only people who could be confident of their deaths are the ones who know what lies beyond this life. People who are unaware of what waits for them after death tend to be scared of dying. Well, I know where I’ll go when I die. And I am not afraid to die. 
In fact for me, to die is gain. I have longed for death for a long time. Sometimes I can’t help but envy the dying. Sometimes I want to already write my “death” note. Take note, I do not refer to a suicide note. Even if I want to die badly, I do not want to invite death at my doorstep. I do not want to hasten what is not yet it’s time. And don’t misunderstand me, I love life. I enjoy my life and I am not immensely unhappy. I have my own shares of life’s burdens but they are not enough to make me want quit life altogether.
But then death is altogether better than what I have now. For when I die, I will be with Him. Forever.
For my other views on death, you may want to check out:

I think I don’t know how to grieve too well. Or maybe I am already made of ice and as such is able to treat all emotions with a critical eye. 

 

My grandfather just died. Although I am not utterly close to him, I know I should still feel some pang of sadness or grief. But I am afraid that my emotions are just close to numb – nothing; neutral. I do not feel anything. I have not even shed a tear. I am more concerned about what would happen to the family now that he is gone – will his siblings finally voice out against his wife? Will chaos ensue now that the pillar is gone? Furthermore I am relieved that his suffering has ended. 

 

In the past weeks, his life has been mercilessly extended by modern medical equipments – whereas in the past he should have been dead at the start of the month, thanks to medical inventions, he managed to live till the end of the month. But then the amount of discomfort and pain to him must have been great – not to mention the embarrassment he must have endured or the anxiety he must have felt over his situation. Embarrassed because his kids who needs to look after him were able to see him naked – changing diapers and clothes – and anxiety because he knows all the medical attention he is receiving is expensive and costly. 

 

I know my grandfather wasn’t senile when he died. There were just a lot of complications in his body like difficulty in breathing ultimately resulting to his inability to talk and express himself. They even said that there were times wherein he would fight off the nurse who administers his suero – I guess he was already resisting medication. And so to me, it is good that he is dead. That he now rests in peace. And maybe that’s why I cannot grieve like the rest. 

 

This year, or maybe the past couple of months, a lot of people I personally know, and not personally know, have passed from this world. My grand aunt, that is my grandfather’s older sister died last December. She was somehow close to me when I was in high school but even then I knew she was already suffering from the complications of diabetes. Not only that she has had a lot of emotional baggage caused about by the inattention of her children and the over attention of her siblings. So it was a relief for her to die. Then came January, one of the persons I considered a lola because she cared for me when I was young, also passed away. She was also suffering from the complications of diabetes but unfortunately she doesn’t have the money to access sufficient medical care to alleviate her situation. So it was again a relief for her to die. And then I have a friend, who was suffering from leukemia. She had to undergo several chemotheraphy sessions and apparently that was still no guarantee of her wellness. Just when everyone thought she was ok and recovering, the disease struck again and before further medications could be made, she was dead. Again, it was a relief for her to die for she won’t have to suffer anymore. 

 

And then there are the more famous deaths of Michael Jackson, which has been ruled as a homicide lately, and not suicide as suspected and the recent death of Pres. Cory Aquino, which took from the country one of the greatest president’s it has ever known (according to the tributes). For MJ, I do not know if it was a relief for him to die but for Cory, I know it was. She was also suffering before her death. Apparently, death appears to be a relief from suffering. Not just physical suffering but emotional ones as well. 

 

Death is an escape from this imperfect world into the after life beyond. Of course the only people who could be confident of their deaths are the ones who know what lies beyond this life. People who are unaware of what waits for them after death tend to be scared of dying. Well, I know where I’ll go when I die. And I am not afraid to die. 

 

In fact for me, to die is gain. I have longed for death for a long time. Sometimes I can’t help but envy the dying. Sometimes I want to already write my “death” note. Take note, I do not refer to a suicide note. Even if I want to die badly, I do not want to invite death at my doorstep. I do not want to hasten what is not yet it’s time. And don’t misunderstand me, I love life. I enjoy my life and I am not immensely unhappy. I have my own shares of life’s burdens but they are not enough to make me want quit life altogether.

 

But then death is altogether better than what I have now. For when I die, I will be with Him. Forever.

 

For my other views on death, you may want to check out:

Dying For A Cause

wantednyccposterI have recently watched Wanted starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy.  I know I’m a late bloomer for raving about a movie released in June 2008 and that everyone except perhaps me, had already watched but I’m really late when it comes to movies and it’s not so much the plot or the cast or even the effects that struck me about the film. It was the way Angelina stood up for her cause.

 

 

 

angelinaWhen Angelina learned that the Fraternity to which she had dedicated her life had determined she must die, it didn’t matter to her that Sloan (Morgan Freeman) had to tweak the fabric to prevent her death. She accepted it whole-heartedly. She actually killed all the other Fraternity members without second thought, having learned that their death were predicted by the fabric and decided to also end her life along with them. She stood up for her cause right to the end, even when it may seem irrational to us all. I mean for an assassin who controls the time of the death of others, why not control your own death as well? But the Fraternity gave no room for control. She believed whole-heartedly and unerringly that the fabric is real and that its predictions are to be carried out to the letter even when it demands her own life.

 

Continue reading “Dying For A Cause”