Mourning. I have never, not even once, thought that I would mourn so terribly that sleep would not come. Mourning. Such a word encompassing all the grief and sorrow I am experiencing. Mourning. Sometimes I wonder if the word will ever be enough for what we all feel.
August 19, 5:53 a.m. I woke up with clueless wonder to my mother screaming, her words repeating themselves over and over, demanding to know: What? What?! He’s dead?! Time couldn’t be stiller. I had always said that time never stops for anyone, but I was wrong. It can stop. Because through my eyes, it came to an abrupt halt. Her last question smashed through me like a stab in the gut. My mind’s alarm went psycho: Who died? Who? Who?! But time had stopped, so no one answered me.
I looked at my family one by one. My father, who had been beside my mother the whole time, enveloping her in such a tight embrace, did not answer. My aunt, crying, her shoulders heaving uncontrollably, could not answer. My sister, sitting with the laptop with a confused expression, met my gaze but would not answer. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what was happening, or who, or why, or how! But then, with such eloquent grace time continued to make sense. The moment my mother’s cry traveled through our house, possibly waking our neighbors, time threw a blow against which I could not have shielded myself. My mother wept and screamed. I asked my sister, again. She finally answered: Our Tito Ricky had passed. I was uncomprehending. The only word I could utter was “Ano?”—over and over, I whispered the word, until I started crying, too. On that day our house welcomed sorrow and denial as our guests; solace and acceptance were nowhere to be found.
Death. What a strong word. I had never, not even once, thought that I would face death. I had always believed, and how dumb I had been to believe, that death would never dare come to meet my family. But oh, I was wrong. I believed that we were eternal. That we were to never fear death. My family, either by blood or by choice, are immortals for me, but what a fallacy it was. I fell to my own deception. I believed my own lie. Gullible and proud of that belief, I was proved wrong by life. Death is everywhere, and no one has the power to present an excuse letter saying “To whom it may concern: Please excuse *insert name*. He/she cannot face death blah blah. Thank you for your kind consideration. Yours truly.” Life and death are siblings. They walk hand in hand.
Because of what happened, I believe now that no one can ever be sure of anything, and that waking up each morning, ready to make numerous decisions, is already a risk. We are risking ourselves to the unknown. Ricky Paul Golding was husband to my Aunt Nenette, father to my cousin Paolo, brother to my mother and my aunt, and friend to all. He was like my second dad, and I don’t know why, why, he had to leave. Life is indeed short. And I could throw in a lot of quotable quotes here, but that’s not going to work. This is reality, and in reality no one can time their death and be sure. I will spare you the details of how my uncle died, but I know that it was not an easy death. It was slow and painful, and it’s heart-wrenching to know what had happened. My uncle’s struggles are our pain, his unfinished businesses are our dilemmas, his life, which has been wasted, is our greatest disbelief.
I believed that we are eternal, but in reality we’re not. We cried for days, but the question that occupied my mind was whether I was crying because death had touched my family, or because I had never been this wrong. My heart ached for my aunt and her son. If I felt like this, what about them? And I cried not only because of death but also because of my aunt, who lost a quiet but loving husband and friend. I shed those tears because despite her son, she’s alone now. Ah, she will live. She will live every single day with my uncle in her heart, or better yet, with her. He will always be around, he will always be here. I cried for my cousin; he’s an only child, and I could not help but wonder how he was going to cope. I wept for his wounded heart. Ah, but just like his strong-willed mother, he will live. He will live every single day knowing that we are here, for him, for them.
“Know your limits,” my mother once said. “Never be too busy for family,” she added. Nowadays, people believe in YOLO—you only live once. Some take it to heart, and others become more and more reckless. They’re wrong. We do not live once, we live every day, but we have only one shot at dying and we can never be sure when our time will be up. Now that I am acutely aware of this, I can’t help but wish that I can be bolder to face life knowing and admitting that I had been wrong. I don’t want to waste a minute of my life anymore. I want to live, laugh, cry, love, disagree, argue, feel. Feel that I am living life. Know your limits. Okay, I can do that. Never be too busy for family (either by blood or by choice). Okay, I’ll give heavy importance to that.
Life. Although I sat at the farthest corner of my uncle’s wake, I could still feel life. We all know that while he may not be with us physically, somehow he’s here, watching and guiding us for every hour that passes. Even though death surrounds us all and we are not aware of how much more time we have, we are here. Together. Although it seems that we are bound together today by death, we are here because we are a family and as much as I want to say that death has nothing against us, I know I’d be lying. Death may lurk around us, may be beside us, but we put our trust in and risk ourselves to the unknown. We decide to do this, we choose to live this way. We study, we work, we love, we trust, we cheat, we lie—this is life. And living does not give us the guarantee that we will be eternal, such immortal creatures that cannot be kissed by death. We are all human beings. We make mistakes, but we learn. We die, but we can always say that we have lived.
From mistake to denial to forgiveness. From anger to hate to acceptance. From mourning to death to life.
The end point is not death but life itself. We are life itself.
Jenine Jay G. Bufi, 18, says she is a “student by day, writer at night.” She is taking communications and media studies at San Beda College Alabang.
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