Sunday Lifestyle

Discovering death and dreams

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star

I met a lovely lady at a lunch. She was married to the son of an old friend of mine, whose brother sent me the first floral arrangement I ever received. It was a beautiful fragrant arrangement of lavender orchids and yellow roses. Guess how old I was then? Thirteen! Very young, just stepped into my teen years! This boy — the very first to express being attracted to me — was 18. Then he was accused of being a cradle snatcher.

So I asked the lady, “How is your uncle A?” (I’m using the alphabet for their sequence, not their identity.)

“Oh,” she said, “he just died a few months ago. You knew him?”

“Yes,” I said but I hadn’t seen him in eons. Only recently I have found myself thinking of him and wondering how he is.

Then as we ate I realized that every time I think of someone I knew in the past and had not seen in a long time, a little later I would find out he had died. This was the same situation that I had with B, a favorite client of mine. Many years ago, after I had not seen him in a long time because he had been reassigned from the Philippines to the US and from there to other places, we did not get in touch with each other at all. But five or six years ago I suddenly thought of him and wondered how he was. Then one day someone I had worked with invited a group of us to lunch.

“How is B?” I asked.

“Haven’t you heard? He died a while back.”

“I wonder how C is,” I said to an old girlfriend whom I had not seen in a long time when we suddenly bumped into each other at the supermart.

“He died about two years ago,” she said. “Nobody told you?”

“No, I didn’t know,” I said looking puzzled.

“He was your high school boyfriend, right?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, and wondered why no one had told me as I wheeled my cart away.

There was also D who died about a year ago. I was told about his passing by one of his fraternity brothers. I commiserated with his brother, who texted me back saying how awful it felt to be getting old. I felt good about that not because I was glad D was gone but because I could express my sympathies to his brother, who lived in London but was close enough to him to care.

And E! How could I forget about E? He was my very first early boyfriend. The one with whom I had an Elvis theme song (“Oh, let me be… your teddy bear”). At our reunion one of my classmates told me he had passed away also. He lived in the US.

When I found out about A I realized that maybe I had a special talent. When suddenly I am visited with thoughts of someone I used to know but have not seen recently, that means he or she has died. I wish it would be different. I wish it would be when I can get in touch and condole with someone close to him, but no, I always find out when they have been dead a long time.

But when I think about it I realize that the way it happens with me —finding out they are dead a long time after they go — is perhaps the better way. I don’t know they died so I don’t go to their wakes. Maybe God doesn’t want me to go to their wakes so I can just remember them alive, looking the way they looked when we were young and fresh. I would not have to see them in their coffins, their hair gone white, their wrinkles as visible as mine are now. Maybe God wants me to remember them at their handsome best.

I think maybe after they die they do a lengthy and thorough review of their lives and that’s when a memory of me floats in their minds. That’s what makes them come to me. Maybe they want to discuss something, maybe they have questions. In an unexpected dream I had of A I found myself asking if he had been happily married to the woman his parents chose for him. All he did was shrug his shoulders and smile. It didn’t really matter, he seemed to say. Everyone’s life has happy and unhappy moments. We just have to be grateful we had them and survived them.

Writing this, I smile. I don’t think I really understood that dream. I woke up wondering why I had dreamt of him when I had not seen him for much more than 20 years. But the dream was to give me that message: We all have happy and sad moments. We are just grateful we survive them.

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