A friend of mine died a few days ago. He had a heart complication due to a genetic disorder called “Marfan Syndrome.” People diagnosed with this kind of disorder are often very tall. They have long, narrow faces and their fingers and limbs are unusually long and slender.
When we were in high school, I was not aware of my friend’s condition. I thought he was naturally tall and thin, and assumed that everything was normal and OK. He also wore thick eyeglasses; never did I think that it was also due to his disorder. He had poor eyesight because of partial lens dislocation.
By the way, his name was Jethro.
We belonged to the top section when we were in high school; we were driven by pressure in academics and the work ethic. I always considered Jethro as someone really special because I just liked the way he was: down to earth, smart but not a bragger, benign and generous, and he had a surprising sense of humor. He was brilliant—a math wizard.
I have a lot of memories with him. We took the UPCAT (the college admission test of the University of the Philippines) together. His seat was on my right. We shared erasers and chocolates on that day. Some people might have thought he was quiet, but no, he just mastered the art of whispering.
Jethro was a friend to everyone in our class. I am sure he was very comfortable in their company. Everyone loved him. We still do. We all looked up to him because of his admirable skills. But whenever he was called to recite and to respond to a question from a teacher, he would falter and twitch and take time to answer. I witnessed that for four years. At that time, I thought he was just nervous. But now, everything is making sense. He was like that because of Marfan Syndrome. He had cardiovascular defects. When he felt nervous, the disorder manifested.
After graduation, I went to UP Los Baños and he to UP Diliman. We were still able to keep in touch through text messaging. But then we became too busy to even say hello. After a few months, I learned that he had quit school.
College is never easy, regardless of the school you are in. And with his condition and level of confidence, Jethro was one person who could say that life is truly unfair, that God is not being so gracious. I don’t know what happened exactly within that very short period of time that he was in college. I am pretty sure he had the brain for it, but maybe the struggle to fit in was more challenging than a difficult math problem.
I am now 27. About 10 years ago, Jethro named his social media accounts “Berserk Fury.” The last time I checked his Facebook page, Berserk Fury was still there. He told me several times how he hated himself. I would console him and offer him the most soothing words. I would tell him how loved and special he was. I know a lot of people loved him—members of his family, relatives and friends. He also had friends who shared his interest in manga and video games.
The last time he messaged me on Facebook was on Christmas Day last year. When I was reading the thread, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I realized how lucky I was to have such a friend. He shared with me some of his innermost thoughts. At that time, I was complaining about life. He said death is worse. But then, he continued and said that maybe there’s life after death.
After rereading his messages, suddenly they became more meaningful to me. He kept telling me how he hated himself, but when it was I who needed consolation, he offered me comfort. Moreover, he never missed greeting me on my birthday. The last time he did was last year. He sent me a birthday emoji and called me old. He jokingly said he was just 26. It’s because my birthday comes four months before his.
But these are just memories now—beautiful ones, though.
I still cry whenever I think of Jethro because I miss him and I regret that I wasn’t able to spend more time with him. I know he needed a friend then but I wasn’t there beside him. When I learned about his death, I was very frustrated and regretful. I felt so guilty that I didn’t do my best to show him I care. But I have to move forward.
Mourning is normal when one loses someone dear. This is how doleful I feel about the loss. How much more sad are those who were closer to him—his family and relatives, his coworkers, our classmates, his best friend.
Somehow, maybe Jethro liked some parts of his life on earth. It’s a good thing that life here is ephemeral. That’s because he’s in a better place now. But we feel sad because we think he left too soon. Still, we only want the best for him. I wonder if he can now walk on clouds and rainbows, like how I imagined heaven would be. In a way, I feel envious. I just hope there are no math equations there. But then he liked math, so maybe God can give him some math problems to solve. Kidding aside, we all miss him. He was a very warmhearted fellow. Having him as a friend is one of the blessings God gave us.
Jethro’s life taught me that life is fleeting, that we have but one life. But a life can make an impact—a beautiful upshot on others. We all had Jethro in our lives—one life that was short-lived but filled with sense. Maybe he was not aware that we saw him as a very nice friend. But we all knew his worth, in case he failed to realize that. His life may be seen as an abstract painting without meaning, but for us who loved—who love—him, his life was a masterpiece.
We only live once and each time we wake up and realize we are alive, may we get the message that it’s another chance for us to show love and compassion to others. It’s another chance to see the good in other people. Let us love ourselves and help others see their worth. Let’s not get tired of making them feel special.
Lenie Morota, 27, works at SELC Manila.
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