A letter to loss
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Because of the reflection the commemoration of Holy Week evokes, my son Roel, a writer and educator, sent me a letter he recently wrote about dealing with loss. Here is the letter reprinted in full:

It starts with waking up with sadness in place of a loved one.

It is a feeling as familiar and as welcomed as my darkest, most secret graces. A sadness that has loyally accompanied me for most of my life. This is not to say that it no longer holds meaning. The element of surprise is the only thing I’ve learned to outgrow. The rest, to my delight, is still as staggering and as painful. You should know this by now. I imagine your rolling eyeballs as a sign of agreement. 

Therapy, medication, counseling, social work, paid consequences, healthy and stable relationships, well-set ambitions and goals, proper and responsible application into society, unwavering dedication to humanity, late-night binges and Kondo-crash courses – all of these should have taken it away by now. Or softened the blow. 

But maybe it’s a choice. I choose this sadness over apathy.

Listen to my story now, as you always did. Because the world’s glue is stories. In any shape or form. From any source. Whether heart, mind, or soul. Or from the breaking down, the slow humming of all three. Again, your movement in my mind’s eye urges me on. 

This is what it is: I wake up drenched in crippling defeat. Because the heaviness in my heart, the hostility of sunlight, and the fragile nature of my dreams let me know that all the sadness in the world has, on this random day, beaten me to my own soul. All the sadness. And I try to measure it, every ounce, with each emotion, each sensation, this languid, timeless day evokes. 

As I rise to face the challenge of the sun, each piece of the world offered to me arbitrarily resounds with such terrible sadness. Beautiful, raging sadness. The sound of a classical piece lazily played on a neighbor’s piano heard from under a cold morning shower. Outside, by the park, a young uneasy couple dressed in their magnificent Sunday best, gingerly sharing a swing. A robust child glaring at me, invincible, running past as I desperately try to hold his stare and fail. A beautiful woman walking across the serene park field shining back at the morning sun. My heart is soothed and broken simultaneously.  

In these moments, during these unrecorded murmurs of life, I feel compelled to either retreat, or to try and save the world. Stubbornly I try to do both. In great shame I ask if my soul is truly as resilient as this day, if I can ever be as significant as each moment that plays out.  

Each moment breaks me, then. Completely. Sending me crashing towards my unmapped depths, spiraling past all my untold tragedies and scars. But within each one, moments stolen from the world, I find so much more. Because I choose to see. I choose to fall with my eyes open. I then find pieces of myself, pieces of gloom, of futility, of mortality, of the undying. Pieces of light. I am broken, still, but this is how I am to become whole again. Over and over again.

How many times can a soul die and come back to life within a single day, within a single whispered conversation, in the span of a single smile, a single kiss?  How many times can the world be reborn, held clumsily between a broken man’s trembling hands? The same hands that repeatedly reach to embrace an absent child, parent, comrade, loved one?  I have lost count.   

At daylight’s end, when the sky reinvents colors and changes skin, the wind rustles trees intimately, a signal to the dawning of darkness and wayward stars, finally defying the sunlit universe fallen mute. A new night, a new world, begins. The cool early evening air caresses my weary skin, and only the fickle, absent rain would complete this feast of the soul. All of life now opts to be stubborn, intangible, dancing untamed around me, inside me. The image of your face taunts me. I laugh and I cry. With equal fervor.

I know now that everything that makes up this moment is all I can ever truly own, all I can ever need, to make me realize that there is no other choice but to believe that one’s only genuine duty in this world is to be happy, to be truly happy, and to love. Freely. 

One of the loneliest feelings in the world is the inability to express ourselves, to lay bare our most celebrated joys and passions, our sublime dreams and madness, our purest of sorrows. Because even in vigilant secrecy, they do not cease to exist. Silence can only harden, darken the soul. These words, now, are all I have to sustain me as I await the rain. 

Everything ends. You are no longer here. But I know what I feel for you is what will withstand; it is what will always remain. Because even as it is grazed and swept up by each day, it remains unchanging, refusing to fade or age. There is no love of life without despair of life. And it is my longing for you that bridges the void between the two. 

Please allow me pause, as I see a smirk breaking through. Reminding me of how happy I can choose to be. 

This time, your smile, no longer this world’s, affirms nothing. And everything. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on April 27 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

 Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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