by Apolinario B Villalobos
Some of us may have gone through a near-death experience in which our past lives were flashed before our eyes, followed by a vision of blinding light at the end of the tunnel. I am among those who did when I fell down Mt. Hibok-hibok on the island of Camiguin during a Friday the 13th climb many years ago. I did not tell friends about it even my climbing buddies in PAL Mountaineering Club. I realized only now that it could be God’s way of telling me how I fared since the day I was born, how I dealt with others while growing up until that crucial near-death moment. It could have been His way of showing me portions of my life where I erred, hence, for me to realize that I need to take note and change my ways before I face Him.
The presumed God’s message is far from my mind while I had been exerting much effort to change my lifestyle for the better, that resulted to total eradication of my drinking habit. The changes came about spontaneously. I stopped drinking because I noticed palpitation of my heart even after just two bottles of beer. I minimized staying light despite so many writings to do because I noticed that loss of sleep causes my blood pressure to zoom up. I started counting from one to ten every time I am in a situation that I knew would irritate me and make me flare up. As for the diet, there is no problem because I had been a vegetarian for a long time. Today, I can proudly say that I have changed for the better.
As what I had been doing gave me good results, I tried to share them with friends, thinking that I would be doing them a favor. Some heeded me, some did not. Those who heeded me are thankful. Those who did not, told me that, as we will die anyway, we should enjoy life to the fullest.
I am at the threshold of my life and so are my friends with whom I am sharing useful tips on healthful living. It is alright if some of them do not take me seriously, for who am I to tell them, anyway. I am not a doctor, but my sharing is based on my experience. What I cannot comprehend is their adamant refusal to see the truth despite the expositions made by experts through the different media – tv, newspapers, internet, magazines. For me, there is nothing wrong in preparing oneself before we fall at the edge of life which in my case is just a few steps away. To die of sickness is a natural thing, but to suffer before death is another. Suffering could be lessened if we prepare ourselves.
Gasping for air until one dies because of emphysema is very much different from gasping for air as one dies naturally. The first one died while suffering, while the other one made the passage with a smooth sigh. The suffered death happens prematurely. Imagine young people dying of stroke, cancer, emphysema. These diseases may be prevented if only those who suffer from them are cautious in their lifetime. I need not emphasize that these are caused by unhealthy foods, smoking, heavy drinking, loss of sleep, drug abuse. Those concerned knew all the while that what they had been doing were not right, still they refuse to do what were supposed to be helpful to them
The ones with fatalistic attitude will say that cancer is in their blood, anyway, so they are bound to die of that disease. But there is such a thing as prevention which can be done even just to lessen the effect. The first step in this effort should come from them. Medication should come as a last resort. Nobody is exempted from having different diseases in their blood. But external factors aggravate them. Again, everybody knows that these external factors are summarized into just one – habit. We have the habit of smoking, uncontrolled drinking of alcoholic beverage, eating unhealthy foods, intentionally staying late at night making the rounds of night spots. Why not do something about those bad habits? We always forget that regrets always come at the end. Before, we know it, we may already be in the stage that require dialysis, chemo therapy, etc. Whatever strength left in us, may not even be enough in drawing sighs to lessen our suffering.
While at the threshold of our lives, making the few more steps towards the edge, why not give ourselves the chance to make up for our wrongdoings in the past? We are not saints as not to have offended others and God somewhere in the past as we trudge on the path of life. If you have been snooty, why not put a smile on your face, once in a while? (this may take a lot of practice for some due to the permanent crease on their face that resulted from their former sour expression). If you did not care much for your neighbor before, why not start sharing with them your special viand that you cooked? If you have not been nice to your parents-in-law before, why not treat them to a lunch in a mall? Most especially, if you forgot how the chapel in your neighborhood looks like, why not start waking up early on Sundays to attend Mass? (this way, too, you renew your long-lost relationship with God).
Some of you just do not know that you have a knack for community service. I know you can feel it but do not know just how or where to start. Now is your chance as you have all the time, being retired. With so many calamities happening during most months of the year in our country, you may share your service by joining relief distribution groups. If you do not have that much energy, you can stay at relief center repacking and classifying donations. Former colleagues in PAL, Mrs. Tesi Ona and Mrs. Lency Roceles do this. While Mrs. Ona is with a volunteer social workers’ group at St. Luke’s Hospital, Mrs. Roceles is with a foundation, helping on the spot, needy people. I know that there are still others out there who do the same. They may not be with any group, but are happy enough to do Samaritan works alone.
Each one of us has been given certain blessings in the form of skill by God. It is selfish for us not to share them with others. Some of you are shy to express them. Now is the time to do it. It is not late to join the choir group in your church or evangelists that roam around to share the words of God or religious groups that lead church activities in your communities. Also, you may not know that you have an artistic skill in the field of painting. Mrs. Corazon Aquino tried her best to bring out her artistic inclination just before she passed away. Or you may have the skill to write. Jot down poetic lines to be left behind as mementos to your loved ones.
There are so many things that we can do while we are at the threshold of our lives. Some of us may have already been doing them. But for those who have not yet opened their eyes to realities, by just spending precious times in malls playing bingo, sleeping it out the whole day and spending the rest of the time in the evening imbibing bottles of beer or shots of liquor, playing cards or mahjong at home with friends – think again…while there is still time.