Cycle of life
Surrounded by eye drops, maintenance pills and pain relievers, you begin to look at life as something that can be taken away from you at any time.
The good doctor says stage 2 hypertension may not look critical but its consequence is that it can strike in the dead of night and leave you lifeless without warning.
And so, you stop short and reflect on a 68-year-old life.
One night, while trying to catch sleep, you are drawn to a TV documentary on victims of heart failure. It doesn’t choose its victims. A taxi driver and a business executive are found dead in their work stations.
The following day, you read the news that a director-friend was found unresponsive in his home, and was pronounced dead in a hospital.
You realize with sadness that at your age, your friends and acquaintance are going fast.
When the results of the battery of medical tests get to you, you realize you have to say goodbye to many things you hold dear: a yearly island music festival, endless beer after a good concert, splurging on seafood and high-cholesterol appetizers.
The initial fear has set in, and you visit your grandchildren more often than usual. You think that every moment could be your last, and the memory of the smile of your youngest grandchild is all you want to carry to your grave.
Then you make a new resolution: You can’t watch all the concerts, you can’t be in all ballet opening nights, and you can’t be forever covering deficits for nonrevenue concerts.
Last month, I promised that a Manila concert was going to be my last.
A world-famous diva dedicated an aria to me and I gave her a hug in the middle of the concert amid a cheering audience. I thought it was a beautiful night, and I ended up breaking doctor’s orders by ordering endless rounds of beer as I listened to anecdotes on art and life from my favorite diva and a celebrated tenor.
That foreign diva gave me 37 years of lessons on opera that I would never get from music schools.
As I figure it out now, you can’t have everything. As the song goes, good things never last. You watch a good movie by a millennial director and you get a glimpse of your own youth now gone.
Is there life after rounds of consultations with an ophthalmologist, a cardiologist and heaven knows what else if another ailment manifested itself in your 68-year-old body? No, a Bible-quoting life is out of the question. I can quote from favorite operas but the Bible has somehow eluded me.
Since you are not a likely candidate for sainthood, you resolve to just learn to be more real, to be more accepting, to be more forgiving of yourself and to stop complaining.
You stop being sorry for yourself and you begin to be happy for others. And you see deliverance from cars and houses that will not materialize in this lifetime.
Meanwhile, you dutifully attend the weddings of close relatives and friends. You try to be around at their birthday parties.
But you stand firm on one thing: You cannot go to wakes and cannot participate in necrological services.
In a given week in my island province, a nephew is getting married, and I visit nephews and grandnieces. And before I head for the airport back to Manila, I visit my loved ones’ resting places in the cemetery.
Like it or not, it won’t be long before I join them. I can see my daughters lighting votive candles for the repose of my soul years from now.
In this world you live, in this world you perish. It is the usual cycle, retold countless times in literature and cinema.
Pablo A. Tariman has covered the performing arts for four decades. He has four grandchildren.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.