When the unexpected happens

There are three sets of parents grieving the loss of their young sons over the weekend in Manila.  These people are not personally known to me but I had come to know of them through the social networks.  Four young men in their teens with only one old enough to drive were on their way home from a party at 4am in the morning when their car hit a lamp post and all four young lives came to an end.  Just like that.  Two of the four were siblings.  A fifth young man would have been in the car with them but he chose to go to another party and so was not with his bestfriends.

I grieve for the loss of the young lives, and I grieve for the loved ones they left behind.  But it was their time.

The thing is, we never really know when our time is up.  We may be healthy as a horse and still find ourselves on death’s door because of a car that ran out of control, or perhaps a misstep, or some unscrupulous or criminal elements lurking where we are.

Around 2 weeks ago I received a most disturbing voice message that went into my phone the moment my son was having his first communion.  It was a minute and a half of whispered threats that someone was going to kill me.  I have to admit, it unnerved me.  I saved the message and tried listening to it some more.  The caller ID was a different numerical prefix, but the same 7 digits as my own phone, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out that the number must have been “masked” or altered.  With the advances in technology these days, they can even make it appear like you are calling your own phone.  I shrugged it off as a prank which I am sure it was.  But things like that makes one think about what’s out there.

Then there are my friends who are battling second round bouts of cancer that have moved to other parts of the body.  We hear about people just keeling over and dying because of a heart attack.  You really can never tell when it hits you.

I am trying to set my affairs in order, just in case.  (Again, you’ll never know.)  My will, which I had started writing, is still a work in progress.  My bestfriend Fe loves to surf YouTube for music and would often post clips dedicated to this or that friend on her wall or on her friend’s walls, and I have tasked her to make sure that the right music is played at my wake or memorial service and when I am cremated.  I like that she doesn’t think it’s a morbid topic, so she says yes to everything I say.  Others would shirk away and ask why I’m talking about these things — that I was being morbid.  But morbid as death may be as a topic of conversation, it is inevitable.

I don’t know where death will find me.  If it will be expected or not.  If it will come creeping upon me on my sickbed, or if it will just snatch me away like it did those four young men.  I’ve had a good life.  I have accomplished most if not all my dreams, I’ve done most if not everything I had hoped to do at this point in my life.  I still have other dreams, of course, for the future — like seeing my son graduate and be a grown man.  They will come in time.  But from this vantage point, I can already say I’ve had it good — I’ve been luckier than most.

So…I wish to be cremated.   I find it so sad that we only visit our dead loved ones during All Souls’ Day, on their death anniversaries or on their birthdays.  The rest of the year, their resting place gathers dust, is occasionally cleaned or scrubbed, but lies there unattended.  I’d rather that my ashes were spread out somewhere to join the earth again. 

I want to write the programme for my own memorial service.  I will list down who will eulogize me, will get to do the readings at the final mass, and I will choose the songs to be played or sung.  (And no, I am not going to rob my other BFF Donna of her chosen theme song to be played as her casket is being lowered to the ground: “Give Me Just a Little More Time”. LOL)

I wish my things to be distributed as I will declare them to be given away.  Although I am still ambivalent about donating my body parts to science or to organ recipients — I am seriously considering this.  I don’t have riches or treasures to bequeath, but I have some practical possessions that mean something to me which I want to find a home with some others who might give the same meaning and value to them. 

I am by no means brave.  I’m just trying to be ready, even if no one can ever be truly ready.  It happens IF it happens — WHEN it happens.  I don’t have a bucket list — and I have no plans to write up one.  I’m taking life as it comes, a day at a time.

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