is sleeping peacefully. Two and a half-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 toddler 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 it’s 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 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.