Death answers questions of life

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Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 09 May 2024
Our mother had always loved flowers and shades of pink, especially pink carnation her favorite.

It has been said death is the greatest equalizer. But with my mom’s recent passing, I realized too that death is the best explainer of life. Death is life’s final joke on us that answers, clarifies the many questions we have been asking in our lifetime.

Consider these:

  • Dad died on June 17, 2000, my mom’s 61st birthday; we celebrated his 40th day of death on his birthday, July 26, 2000. He died on a Saturday, the eve of Father’s Day.
  • Mommy died May 07, 2024 with her 40th day coming on June 15, two days before her 85th birthday and dad’s 24th death anniversary. This Sunday after her burial is Mother’s Day.

Ever since my father died, I have realized that death weaves a certain pattern in our lives, telling us a lot of things about us and our loved ones. And about life itself if we would have faith in God by setting aside our fears and superstitions.

Photo by author, somewhere in Bgy. Kaysuyo, Alfonso, Cavite, 27 April 2024.

See how Jesus spoke to His disciples about His coming death during their Last Supper:

“Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you… But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.”

John 16:5-7, 13

It is always after someone had died when things and life itself become clearer for us. In every death comes an unfolding of truth in time, in persons. It is after a beloved had died when we realize how much we do not know of their goodness or kindness that often we are surprised at the outpouring of love by those who come to their wake. Many times, strangers know more of the brighter side of a person when he/she dies. Along this line of mystery of the person we find too how death happens on days that at first seem to mean nothing at all but at closer look, or later as we moved on in life after the demise of a loved one, we see how every death points to something about us and our family and friends!

Hence, we say death is not the end but the beginning of eternity. Actually, with the deaths of my father and now of my mom, I have found death is life. No wonder St. Francis referred to death as a person, calling him “cousin Death.”

This became more clear to me when I became a chaplain at the Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) in Valenzuela City.

Last year I took care of an elderly priest, Msgr. Teng Manlapig when he was confined in our hospital for almost a month. Two days before he died on February 26, 2023, he asked me to hear his confession. It was a Friday and February 26 last year was the first Sunday in Lent when the gospel was the temptation of Christ in the wilderness.

It was on that Sunday evening after seeing Msgr. Teng for the last time before he was taken to the funeral parlor when I remembered another priest I had cared during his dying days, Msgr. Macario Manahan who died in front of me in his retirement home on March 16, 2014 – the second Sunday in Lent when the gospel was the Transfiguration.

What a tremendous gift from God for me to care until their deaths of two monsignori in the Season of Lent. From them I have realized that our final altar as priests are our deathbeds where even to the end, we celebrate Mass and the Sacraments. From that day on too, I have prayed to God to allow me to go home to Him not during Lent but on Easter. Or, preferably on Ascension Sunday when my time comes.

Have a blessed day celebrating life, finding its meaning and beauty in the prism of cousin Death in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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