My cute little bro, tucked-in and wrapped in an all-white baby blanket, is sleeping peacefully. Four-year-old me, gazing at him curiously, felt the urge to kiss him. I planted one on his cheek and touched his face and hair tenderly. It didn’t occur to me until later, but it felt odd.
A young girl, about a year older than me, startled me by exclaiming, ‘Why did you kiss him? He’s dead!’ In a hurried, excited voice, she explained to me why I shouldn’t have done it. Somehow I understood, but I was disbelieving. ‘No, he’s not dead!,’ I denied. But she was dead sure.
In their grief, explaining to a little child what death meant wasn’t uppermost in my parents’ mind. I was confused. ‘Ask your mother,’ this mature girl said, ‘if you don’t believe me.’
Tight-lipped as she approached, my mother wore a grim, sad face that confirmed the painful truth. I asked her repeatedly, looking up at her with pleading eyes, hoping she’d say it wasn’t true. A sad nod was all she could muster.
Then it dawned on the young me. I felt a bit odd when I kissed him and ran my fingers through the side of his face. My poor little brother was rock hard, cold and very still. With this revelation, I looked at him again, this time in fear! The look of a lifeless body with the colour of death was ingrained in my memory.
That was my rude introduction to death but then again meeting death is never under happy circumstances. That first-hand experience—unintentionally kissing death in its face—may explain my subsequent feelings of extreme dread and unease in anything associated with it: cadavers, wakes, funeral parlours, coffins, cemeteries.
Mario was his name. His time on Earth was but a wink for he only lived for 13 hours, I later learned. My parents, especially my father, used to say proudly that he was the most handsome of my brothers. Born in a coastal part of southern Philippines, at a time when midwives were commonly hired to help pregnant mothers give birth, his death was a mystery to my parents. I don’t remember anything else surrounding this day but this particular hair-raising incident is stuck in my memory, kept alive by a photo of my lifeless baby brother taken of that day.
Death is a word that gave me the creeps. Over the years, thankfully not too many times, in funerals, I very hesitantly approach coffins to ‘view’ the body in it. Unless I had to, I often avoid to look. It defeats the purpose of attending a ‘viewing’ really—making an effort to go see the departed, only to close my eyes when I get there.
Fast forward to the present time and after searching long and tirelessly for life’s true meaning, my views of death has changed somewhat. Death, a five-letter word, now means five things to me:
1. Release – from pain, sickness, suffering, imprisonment of some sort.
2. Freedom – from misery, from all the personal dramas that we human beings endure, unnecessarily go through or involve ourselves with.
3. Homecoming – going back to our source, to our real home, for those who believe in the ‘afterlife’ like I do.
4. Enlightenment – perhaps the departed souls will finally be able to find answers to deep-seated and nagging philosophical and existential questions about who we truly are and our real purpose here on Earth.
5. A doorway – to another existence, another dimension, another reality.
These different ways of looking at death will not remove the pain and anguish one would feel when one lose a loved one, especially if it’s sudden and unexpected, but they offer comfort and hope.
Sometimes I wondered, and still do, what the purpose of my brother’s birth and untimely death was in the greater scheme of things. So I look forward to understanding life’s mysteries and knowing or perhaps ‘re-discovering’ the ultimate truth when it’s my turn—though not just yet— to forever sleep and hopefully, expectantly… awake in another realm.
Next topic: Losing my Religion (part 1)
Posted on 30/04/2010, in Memories, Points of View and tagged Afterlife, death, Dimension, doorway, enlightenment, Existence, Freedom, homecoming, Life, Philosophy, Reality, realm. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.