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.