I’ve got some weird things running in my gray matter since the start of the year. And last week everything seems to have happened in topsy-turvy manner or as what I sometimes describe things in the production floor as chopsuey—just a mixture of different things. There was anxiety, there was hope, and then there’s despair.

And today the emotional intensity has gone up and one thing that made me think less or control it rather than it controlling me was the anticipation that things are about to happen. It’s not matter of IF but it’s just a matter of WHEN. It’s like running out of brakes and just bracing for impact while each second is a countdown of the imminent worst case scenario.

Last week I was mulling over the topic of death once again while killing time (pardon the pun). I was asking myself when was the first time I realized how death of a loved one must be like. And then I remembered, it was way back in my elementary days.

It was one lazy summer 1984 afternoon. The flickering rays of the sun passed the swaying ipil-ipil leaves in our front yard. I was about to enjoy my mandatory siesta when a familiar voice called. ”Mahampang na kami siguro (it must be playtime already),” I thought. But as I rush out of the door, a rather sullen look greeted me. It was my classmate and friend,  Jonathan. “Cris, patay na si mama (mom is dead),” he said.

I still remember feeling confused, not knowing what to make out of it. I can’t remember the exact discussions that followed but I remember us just sitting in the yard and with me listening while he tells stories about his mom. At a very young age I witnessed funerals of my own relatives but I have never been closed to understanding until that memorable afternoon that with death comes inevitable grief. It’s how one handles it that makes the difference.

Then just two days ago, I received an email with an urgent subject: Emergency Appeal! I read the message and it’s from someone in Africa. I shrugged it off as a scam but verified it anyhow through my college yahoogroups. Just as expected, my inbox was soon flooded with replies confirming what I thought it to be. But one replied out of topic and only addressed to me. It was from Jonathan.

class 84
Our elementary class.

We’ve had some lengthy email exchanges since then and I find it weird that everything has been so mixed up but yet still appears to be in harmony as every dot gets connected in the end. Weirder is the fact that I’ve been holding to a clipping from this Sunday’s newspaper with a story from Francis Kong’s “Tragedy into blessing” article.

Year’s ago in Scotland, the Clark family had a dream. The Clarks had worked and saved, making plans for their nine children and themselves to travel to the United States. It had taken years, but they had finally saved enough money and had gotten passports and reservations for the whole family on a new liner to the United States. The entire family was filled with anticipation and excitement about their new life. However, seven days be- fore their departure, the youngest son was bitten by a dog. The doctor sewed up the boy but hung a yellow sheet on the Clarks’ front door. Because of the possibility of rabies, they were being quarantined for 14 days. The family’s dreams were dashed. They would not be able to make the trip to America as they had planned. The father, filled with disappointment and anger, stomped to the dock to watch the ship leave.

The father shed tears of disappointment and cursed both his son and God for their misfortune.

Five days later, the tragic news spread throughout Scotland – the mighty Titanic had sunk. The Clark family was to have been on that ship. When Mr. Clark heard the news, he hugged his son and thanked him for saving the family. He thanked God for saving their lives and turning what he had felt was a tragedy into a blessing.

The story was made even more meaningful when bad news struck yesterday.  God must indeed have plans for us and now, I’d like to believe it more. Few weeks or months from now, I’ll be missing things in the production floor. No more chopsuey. No more turning back.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks!

A Lovely Death Story

“How I was born I do not remember, How I will die I do not know” – Russian Proverb

Just last week while channel surfing I passed by HBO and saw Meet Joe Black about to be played. I can’t remember when we watched this in the cinema plus I have forgotten what this movie is all about. That’s typical me. Trying to figure out what I missed, I was glued on our couch again but with my thumb on the remote’s channel button waiting to press it any moment I get a hint of a boring story.

While watching I tried to recall past films about death. My mind replayed horrifying faces of the Scream mask; of a man in black hood with the ever familiar scythe; of heads rotating past 360 degrees; of men and women in death beds; and of bloodied soldiers dying in the battlefield. Those films portrayed death for what it is–morbid and scary. Interestingly, I set aside the remote few minutes after Meet Joe Black started. The scene opened with the character Bill Parrish abruptly waking up and having a confusing conversation with someone he can’t see, not sure if he is only hearing things.

More intriguing things followed and I  would sooner realize that this movie would separate itself from any other films that portray death. Maybe its about casting. Death (known as Joe Black) is played by Brad Pitt, the prospective “victim” Bill Parrish is Anthony Hopkins and his lovely daughter Susie Parrish is Claire Forlaine, whose twitching lips and sharp probing eyes would catch my attention every now and then. Or maybe its the subtlety of the story despite the topic of death that stands out the most.

A mixture of emotions were running in my head as the film progresses. There’s the uncomfortable thought that sooner or later we will all die anyway. Then there is comic relief in the idea of meeting your angel of death and with him trying to calm you down to prevent a heart attack so as not to ruin his vacation here on earth. The writer also made a perfect pun of making Joe Black an IRS agent–there’s nothing more certain in life than death and taxes, remember? And there’s also the idea of getting in love with death. It’s absurd but for the first time Meet Joe Black made me find dying worth the wait.

The last moments in the movie aren’t predictable either. Instead of the boring death bed farewell, there were grand fireworks and partying. There’s Bill anxious yet firm in the midst of anticipation of leaving his family, business and aristocratic lifestyle and subsequently facing the unknown. To cap the story, the last conversation was perfectly chilling. “Should I be afraid?” Bill asked. Then Joe Black answered, “Not a man like you.”