A birthday & a funeral

(The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The ultimate mystery of life lies in its beginning and end. For every starting point, there is a finish line. A life starts. The same life ends. That’s how it is. What happens in between — a series of man’s action or inaction to the gift given him by God — is just necessary.

Life and death are opposite poles that meet in time. From each point of life is a celebration. Last Monday night, I found myself in the birthday party of my spiritual adviser in Makati and, after an hour, I was on the road to go to the wake of the mother of a best friend in Antipolo City. In both occasions, a celebration was held — one, for a life meant to be further lived well; the other, for a life well lived.

That life is a gift can be seen in the eyes of Fr. Gerard Deveza, a healing priest who heals both the body and soul. At his intimate birthday party, he wore a red shirt as he marked yet another milestone in his life. He was with family and friends. With them, he celebrated the gift of life.

That death is also a gift can be seen in the hearts of the children of Yolanda Ubana Capiral, a simple girl from Talisay, Camarines Norte who made something out of her humble beginnings when she decided to live in Manila. At her wake, her children — Jay (my male college best friend), lawyer Cedrick, Heinz and Charizz — wore black to mourn the passing of their beloved mother. They were condoled by their relatives and friends. With them, they celebrated their mother’s gift of life.

In essence, life and death are the same. Life continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Death is a springboard of life to those who are left behind.

Beyond physical death is the birth of other forms of life — a rekindled friendship (for many long-lost friends or relatives only get reunited at wakes); strengthened ties among siblings who will muster courage and effort to move on and heal; and a renewed faith in God (for it is in our weakest that we become our strongest because of Him).

It could have been the death of many a children’s dream in Cabid-an, Sorsogon if Fr. Gerard did not open his heart to them. In this province where he was ordained as a priest, Fr. Gerard renewed his faith in God and made a covenant with Him, not inscribed in stone but engraved in a school that sits on a one-hectare property. He founded the Divine Healer Academy of Sorsogon in 2003 with practically an empty pocket but with generous hearts of friends and strangers who unselfishly helped him carry out his mission of establishing the school. It’s been 12 years now that the mission school is run very well through the generosity of the people. Fr. Gerard and the Healing Servants Foundation, the organization that helps gather funds for the school, prove to all and sundry that the kindness of people heals.

“May God bless me more so I can serve Him more,” says Fr. Gerard, a People of the Year awardee of PeopleAsia magazine in 2013. That’s his birthday wish. He holds no reservation that God will grant the desire of his heart. He does not live for himself. He lives for the 377 elementary and high school students of the school he founded.

The Capiral siblings, on the other hand, believe that God will take care of their mom in heaven, together with their dad Eric, who passed on exactly 10 months before Tita Yolly peacefully joined God in His eternal garden on March 15. Together, Tita Yolly and Tito Eric can take a bow before God for raising their children well.

“My mom taught me to love unconditionally,” says Jay. Everything he knows about love — tough, soft, kind, lasting love — he learned from her.

Cedrick, the lawyer in the family, says, “She taught me that to effectively defend a person, you must love him or her. From her I learned that hard work pays, that there is strength in silence and submissiveness.”

“She was fiercely loyal. Her loyalty made her successful. She gained the trust of the Gokongwei family because of her loyalty,” adds Heinz.

Tita Yolly finished a secretarial course in Mabini College in Camarines Norte. Armed with courage and resolute will to succeed, she rode the bus to Manila, landed a job at the Gokongwei group of companies — the first and last place of work she had known for 40 years.

“From a personal clerk, she rose to become one of the formidable purchasing directors for JG Summit,” adds Jay.

For Charizz, she says, “Mommy taught me to be a good daughter. And to be a good mom myself.”

Today is their mother’s funeral. Today, they understand fully that they are totally orphans. And yet, today also marks their new venture to life as siblings. They only have each other now.

Everybody will experience life and death. Those who have experienced death in the family will agree that a certain kind of grief is felt — sometimes fleeting, but many times, especially in the beginning, lounging. But in time, pain and sorrow are turned into memories that serve as anchor for the loved ones left behind. The best thing about memories is that they become the lighthouse on nights when the heart and mind ache for illumination. Memories are a moral compass, they point to your inner mantle and fortify your core. Memories are bankable fortresses when we need to make important decisions, when we need to fall in love, or fall out of it. Memories give us a perspective of the destiny we wish to pursue, of an ambition we still want to accomplish.

A beautiful life, if you closely go into introspection, is a beautiful preparation for a beautiful death. Because death, in itself, is life. So, a birthday and a funeral are meant to be celebrated.

Happy birthday, Fr. Gerard. May you further inspire the lives of many.

Happy cross over, Tita Yolly. Thank you for your gift of life.

(Please e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio.)


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