Sentimental | Inquirer Opinion
GLIMPSES

Sentimental

12:30 AM December 16, 2022

Almost three years of a global pandemic may seem like a faint memory to some but quite painful for others. At the very least, life was harshly disrupted and, try as we might, will never be the same again. December 2022 is like life starting up after the death of an old one. It is not just a mere turning of the page. Rather, it is a story of life painfully snuffed out and the lessons we might learn from it.

This Christmas remains a celebration no matter the context. Its spirit is indomitable, powerful enough to create a bright light in the darkness. That is what Christmas is like – a new life. New life is the birth of a child. That the child whose birth we celebrate every Christmas is one of a kind, the only one, in fact, makes Christmas a celebration of life in both a spirit and a body renewed.

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Celebrating a new life, however, carries with it the context within which it happens. Unlike the story of Genesis, Christmas is not a creation from nothing but the rebirth of something. Creation had no context of tradition but the beauty of Christmas is because it has. Definitely, both the past and the future are totally embraced in the present and meaning of Christmas. A savior is involved, a savior of the past, a savior of the future.

Because of the past, a savior’s value is brought to a whole new dimension. It is not starting from scratch, it is carrying a past beyond the framework of time and transforming it to be an integral part of the future. The savior is the present, you and me and everybody else alive all engaged in the work of transformation, the evolution of life.

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Looking back is not the equivalent of staying in the past. It is honoring the past, for sure, for its good and for its mistakes as well. Because as agents of transformation, the past is part of the raw material we get to process into a finer finished product towards the future we envision. Not looking back, though, is to dishonor life as it had been, as though it had not existed and, therefore, devoid of value. We would have very little to process in the present, having no lessons and wisdom to begin with.

Looking back makes me sentimental. I believe that I am like most people who look back and remember with emphasis those we loved and the moments we had with them. We remember the painful moments, too, because important lessons were often born from them. But by far, the ones we loved, the moments, events and places we savored with deep enjoyment and satisfaction, these are what make carrying the past a source of strength in our life today.

The pandemic has inflicted many wounds. The most painful, though, are about family and friends we lost without the benefit of traditional grieving and the support of others who share the same loss. The pandemic separated us, made us realize the narrow limits of individual independence as we experienced separation from one another. It also drove deeper the reality that physical separation did not insulate us from the pain of losing a loved one; instead, that separation all the more intensified the pain of the loss.

I am now honoring the lives who went ahead in the most unfriendly of circumstances caused by the pandemic. If I had not been able to grieve in full, let me now remember them in all the splendor worthy of the love and depths of our relationships. Before I move with powerful enthusiasm into celebration of the new life that Christmas brings, let me indulge with my needed sentimentality.

Just closing my eyes brings memories and images dancing in and out – and tears, too, accompanying my smiles. Whoever they are, they are gone from the one reality that dominates our understanding of life. But they evoke so much joy even now, and they are not gone in the forever sense, in the forever dimension of human life. For them, too, we strive to make the present better, wiser, and most of all, kinder.

Life can seem so fleeting, yet death can seem so powerless to end it all. What touches us, what turns native intelligence to wisdom, becomes our foundation for decisions we make from moment to moment. And all whom we remember with love and gratitude, including the lessons we painfully learned along the way, are in our ideas, our visions, and most of all, they are still co-drivers of our decisions.

We are lifting our heads above the water today. We are not out of the floods that we were struggling to survive these past three years, but our heads are above the water. Because we do not know exactly what the new life after the pandemic will be, we will tend to rush back to all there was before. That will be our first big mistake.

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We had declared that the old forms are dead and the pandemic was forcing us towards new ways and new directions. Unavoidable, though, not to follow an old track as there is a lack of visionary leaders setting a clear path for us. I just pray we learn faster this time and find alternatives for the new mainstream we will build.

My sentimentality will be the last phase of a grieving I was unable to finish. Christmas beckons, the bright stars and lights signaling new life with a salvific mission invite our spirit to open and welcome them. I will not deny Christmas and what it stands for, just as I do not deny grieving and remembering what has faded from physical life. Christmas is here, its loving and giving spirit is here.

May the love and generosity that define our Christmas reach out beyond our family and friends until they reach Filipinos in need, until they, too, feel Christmas as we do.

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