December 26, 2007

For T. Mena

On December 17, 2007, I lost someone very dear to me. She was the mother of a very good friend from law school; much later on, the entire family would become part of me, literally. On many occasions, she was literally like a mother to me (and to my classmates because many of us spent much time at her house) During her funeral mass, I had wanted to volunteer to say a few words but I knew that I would not be able to think or say anything.

For Susan (and Danny), Dada (and Charlie), Jing (and Fourdie), Frays, Cathy (and Dan) and of course Tito Noli and the next generation: China, (Joaquin+), Pat, Po, Nikki and JD -- there are very few words that will suffice to remember and celebrate the blessing that Tita Mena was to me. These words from the late (and much missed) Fr. Jim Donelan, S.J. (a priest whom Dada and I would find time to listen to when we were still both working in Makati) might put everything in perspective though:

Saying Goodbye
James F. Donelan, S.J.

Goodbyes have always been an inspiration to poets, and what has caught their poetic fancy most is the contradictory nature of the experience. Emily Dickinson says partings are all we know of Heaven, and all we need of Hell. Shakespeare's Romeo puts it simpler: Partings, he says, are such sweet sorrows. We smile through our tears and cry through our laughter.

But goodbyes are more than sentimental moments. They are one of nature's sacraments--sacraments in that they involve a mystery, an insight into the heart of things. there is a mystery involved in going away, in that simple experience of saying goodbye that touches each one of us, sometimes lightly, sometimes heavily.

Goodbyes reveal something about the meaning of our lives, the great tides that rise and fall, the joys and sorrows that inundate our hearts at different moments of our lives. We may hate goodbyes but we cannot avoid them because they put us in touch with something fundamental about ourselves--our rootedness in time and place.

Going away reminds us of our uniqueness, our identity, and how it depends on certain people. Our hearts have many anchors, but when the great tides call us to catch the wind and sail away, we will be missing life itself if we fail to go.

True, it is hard to say farewell, especially the milestone goodbyes of our life--leaving home, leaving country. But part of maturity lies in realizing that there is no genuine growth in life that doesn't gather us together and lead us to a point where we pull apart to find out who we are and what we must do with our lives. It is hard especially for parents to allow those we love their private places to be sad and to cry, to be lonely, to experience sorrow and defeat. Yet, going away is our daily spiritual bread. If we don't recognize that, then we haven't completely grown up.

The great secret, of course, that lies at the heart of the mystery is that saying goodbye or allowing others to be free to do so never truly separates us from what we have known and loved and shared. We can lose material things by separation, but absence only increases love.

The feeling we experience when we say goodbye adds to, rather than takes away from, our experience of life. And because we have had the courage to travel deep into love's mystery of going away, we can one day celebrate the joy of coming together again. And so life goes on, strengthened and encouraged by the hope and promise of reunion.

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Tita Mena, thank you for your life and for the way you lived it. As China said, 20 years (which is how old she is) is too short; yet, I know and am reassured that you are in that blessed eternity already. . . waiting for us. And, somehow, that gives me much, much comfort. Until we see each other again, maraming salamat Tita.

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