One Saturday morning, I donned a white dress.
With wooden beads and book of prayer,
I set out for a day of mourning,
A friend's father whom I barely knew
was being laid to rest in a garden filled with dew.
What greeted me were grateful hearts and faces smiling
for a man so rich in goodness outlived time's passing.
I dislike going to funerals because it leaves a heavy feeling that lingers long after everyone has gone home. But this was different because behind the quiet, heavy sobs, what I experienced was peace and joy that was very uplifting.
I never really knew Amy's father. I would see him when I hitched a ride from school or when I visited Amy in their house. It was a mere "good afternoon" or "kumusta po." I gathered that he got married at 44 years old and retired at 48. He spent the good part of his life taking care of his kids - a favorite daughter and a favorite son. He was their private chauffeur, driving them around to their different activities whether it was school-related or otherwise. He was their tutor and taught them the treasures that can be found in a good book and even asked them to memorize passages from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.
I realize the lightness I felt that day was the joy of celebrating a life that was marked not by one moment of greatness but one wherein the little, simple and quiet things elevated a man to greatness. Looking at the happiness in the neighborhood kids' eyes when he calls the ice cream man to give them a treat, visiting the slums to give hope to the poor families or occasionally, seeing sadness in his children's eyes because he said "no" to their indulgence so he can help out those who needed more and knowing that through this, his kids will learn the value of giving and sharing are snippets of a principled, contented and happy life.
The Prophet says life and death are connected. I realize that Amy's dad often talked about his death casually because he did not merely understand this, he embraced it. Life and death are linear passages to get to our final destination. We must go through life before death and we must go through death to reach the final place where our souls can truly sing and dance. But the important reminder is no matter what kind of life we are given, we create joy and happiness in simple things - sharing a story with our kids, reading a good book, having a simple meal with people who are important to us, giving help even if we have very little, seeing the good in all things, laughing, smiling and thanking more. And when we have ended our passage, those we have touched and shared our lives with can sing and dance too because they know that we have wonderfully and thankfully enjoyed the entire ride of this journey called our lifetime.
As Amy said goodbye to her father, she held out their special book, now very old with brown, dog eared pages and lovingly read a passage as if she were a girl of 16 who is reading to her father in their home in Sikatuna.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.