Understanding Death

Understanding  Death

By Apolinario Villalobos


For  some groups, death is a passage to another life.  Others   aver   that   it is a state of   just   being asleep.  The rest,   maintains   that  it  is nothing   but  just  the “return of the body  to dust”.    Rather   than   be confused as to what it really is,as I might be  branded as a heretic,  I would rather dwell on its effects.


Death checks the population  explosion.  Can you imagine if nothing on earth dies? Can you imagine if predators will not prey on animals belonging to the lower strata of wild life? Can you imagine if trees in the forests are left to creep towards all directions? Can  you  imagine  if people of  different  races  do not die  of hunger, disease or war? Death, aside from natural calamities is an important segment  of  a cycle that regulates  the “balance” of life on earth.  


Death creates heroes.  One has to die to become a hero.  If Jesus   had  not died  on the cross, would he be considered a hero and redeemer   among   Christians?  Even  the early Jews  were divided as to how to  treat him. The messiah expected by some of  them  was  a warrior who will deliver them from the hands of  their oppressors, and not a preacher. He was not  even popular in his birthplace, so he decided to go to other places to be able to preach.  But, it’s a good  thing that he had his disciples who  later spread  his teachings.  Just like Jesus, Muhammad,  the  founder  of  Islamic  faith faced  great odds before his teachings  were accepted.   His  tribe  even  rejected  him,  forcing  him to go  Madinah  (known as Yathrib, later, Medina), after 13 years of persecution.  It   was  after  he died  that his teachings  were appreciated.  Both  died  not only as  heroes  but  spiritual  leaders  whose acts  are  sincerely  emulated  by  their  adherents.


If  Ninoy Aquino  is living today, would he be considered  a hero by Filipinos?   Among  those  that  his detractors used against him when he was alive was his being a staunch  supporter  of Communism in the Philippines. Then,  there’s  the Hacienda  Luisita  that  haunted  even his  wife, Cory, up to her deathbed.  With the kind of politics that   the Philippines has,   Ninoy  Aquino could have become  just  like any other politicians trying to survive the squabble in the political arena and thrashes  of opponents,  in his case, the  issues on his ideology and Hacienda  Luisita.  His death was caused by a “persecution”, because just like Jesus, he was a threat to the one in power.  And, because of that, he became a hero among Filipinos who got tired of dictatorship.  


Some Filipinos today who are traumatized by the scandals in the government, are wishing  for   the  “resurrection”  of  Marcos whose administration is now being compared   to  those   who  assumed  the  presidency after his death.   They  say, though,  with a tinge of joke, that  during  the time of Marcos, corruption  was “regulated”,  unlike today that  those in the government,  down to the  drivers and  messengers,  can  freely  dip their  hand  in the coffer of the government, even  for a flimsy excuse.  Some  groups are in fact, considering Marcos a hero, because, without him, there would have been no cultural center complex,  the  Philippine General Hospital  would still be the same dilapidated and cramped  building  that  survived  WWII, there would have been no kidney, lung and heart centers, etc., etc. etc.


There are still living political icons with significant accomplishments, but they are relegated on the sidelines.  They have authored books, pages of which are regularly flipped by students,  professionals, and government  officials  for important  information.  There are many Filipinos who excel in the fields of literary, arts, science,  sports , architecture and  technology.  Some of  them  are referred  to as “living heroes”, but the reference  is with quotation marks  which  only death can erase.


Death  unites  families and  friends.  Members   of  families   whose   homes   have   been  broken  by misunderstandings   that   only   they know,   come   together   when   one   of   them    dies,   usually during the wake.   Classmates  who for decades  have  no idea  how  to get  in touch  with  each other  suddenly  find  themselves  having a  reunion  at  the wake  of a  classmate  who passed away.  Long  lost  friends  and  relatives surface  during   a   wake.  A  morbid  joke  about  the need  for  a loved  one  to  die before  another  reunion  can  be  had,  oftentimes  draws  laughs  during this  occasion.


A   death   in the  family  is  hard  to accept.   That  is    the   traditional  fact.  Sorrow   should   permeate   the air  while  wake  is  being  held.  Those   who   come  are  expected to  shed  a tear.  But  today,  there  are  bereaved  families  who  even  rent  a  videoke  unit  to lend  a festive  air to the occasion.  Reason   given   is  that,  it  is the  last wish  of the  departed.


For some,  death  is  not easy  to accept ,  especially, by  those  who  have  amassed  wealth.  They  cannot  just  take  the  idea  of  leaving  behind  the fruit  of  their  labor.  On  the other  hand,  death  means  financial  opportunity  for  some  people  –  those who  work  conscientiously  long  hours  in  funeral  parlors.   

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