My uncle passed away yesterday evening. The news reached us just this morning, when we all woke up, when we all had hopes and anticipation at the advent of a new month. In my cousin’s text, she said that her father has “gone home” and that he “received Christ” before he left. The last thing is important. Christ is everyone’s key to heaven. On earth, and on whatever realm we may be.
The last ends of the string rolls away just so easily. In the past month, there have been surges of holding on and giving up, alternatively. It was exhausting, watching them, seeing their chest rise with a glow in their eyes, and then letting their sighs escape as small prayers breathe out of their lips. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there in action. I was here, writing. Thinking. Wishing. Hoping. As my mom gave herself away. Legs won’t stay put. Fingers won’t rest. Heart won’t stop worrying. Until it all finally ends. Today.
When we woke up, we discovered she missed reading a text from my cousin. It was last night. Her father died last night. It was when he finally was out of the hospital, driven home in an ambulance. It was when he laid his head on his bed, smelled the scent of wheat and farm on his walls, saw his dogs, and glanced at the familiar surroundings where he has devoted much of his life in. It was home. It was where he chose to die.
Death, to me, is a sublime truth. Humans die. There’s pain in mortality, but that’s the beauty of it. We feel. There is movement. There is shaking. There is relief. And we might not like the idea of storms, of injections, of being cut in half to be stitched again, but when you remember your heart is still beating, when you smell the fragrance you loved, when you look at your fingers and feel warmth at its tips, ah. Life. The breath of God. It’s still here, in this little vessel.
Every human being that I know, good or not-so-good, are given pleasant goodbyes. It’s their right. Their story takes on a conflicting route as they lay on the hospital bed, helpless, with many of their monsters dug up, many of their secrets unfolding, silent moments broken by many questions. There are whys and hows. There are times when you look at the patient and imagine why you see a different person, not just in flesh, but in emotions. Every bit of our skeleton is placed under a scrupulous analysis as doctors study our veins, while our kin study our traces.
Death comes when least expected. Death comes when least welcome. Death comes and holds you upside down, trying to shake off the things you have hidden, forcing you into a full reveal: who you were, what you have done, whom you loved, who loved you back.
When that happens to me, in the dark of the room, I’d probably have tears in my eyes. Even if my body stings with pain, I will never forget who loved me back. I had lived a life of a person who was loved.
And right now, while I am alive, I’m opening my closet and clearing out my skeletons. I don’t need them in this life. I need new spaces to fill memories with. I need to make new journeys. New friends. New feats. New things.
This morning, while spooning a large dose of Milo in my cup, my parents had a little ramble about their homecoming. We’ll never know. There won’t be a warning. I’m taking this as a hint. My dad warns us “not to disrupt God’s will” when his turn comes. My mom says she wants to “stay home.” Notably, she asked that God will take her in sleep. Of course, I thought. After watching too many stomach-churning scenes in the hospital, nobody wants a needle to invade their flesh and stay there. Nobody wants to be tied in strings of IVs. I watched my cup simmer with hot water, both of my parents gave a mischievous look and mentioned expressively,
“But not now.”