The courage to be kind

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

When orthopaedic surgeon Dr. George Canlas and his wife Glennda lost their son Ben last March, it seemed like their world had come to an end. Dr. Canlas is well-known in the sports world, not just in the Philippines, so when word got around that his “buddy” Ben was gone, he was flooded with messages of sympathy, concern and care from all over. Ben was 17, a graduating senior at Beacon Academy, a varsity basketball player and a student leader. He had just been accepted at Ateneo as a merit scholar.

“Ben was my life,” said Dr. Canlas in a text. “I’m really sad. Ben was such a good boy. I fully realized it when people from all ages and walks of life told me how he was so kind and compassionate – coaches, players, farm workers, security guards, schoolmates, store clerks, almost everyone he met, no matter how little time they interacted. He was special. Most of all, I miss my buddy.” It’s been over 40 days now since the passage and with Ben safely resting in heaven with the Lord, Dr. Canlas is at peace. Overcoming the grief of losing a son so close to a father’s heart is a struggle but is made easier when what is left behind are memories of love, good times and happiness.  

On Ben’s 40th day in heaven, Dr. Canlas’ wife delivered a message of thanks so touching, so full of love to those who condoled and shared in the family’s bereavement. Here are excerpts of Glennda’s message:

“When our world came crashing down on us, it was a time of deep sorrow, confusion and pain. For the first time, I understood the meaning of anguish. But we were never alone. And so it is with the utmost gratitude that we thank those who rushed to be with us, pray with us and oversee the planning and practical preparations that had to be done. Soon after, there was a tremendous outpouring of support, sympathy and love from every direction, from every link that connected us as friends, colleagues, schools and communities. Every act of kindness, every gesture of love, every song sung or played, every message of sympathy and condolence, every prayer and spiritual offering came together to provide a scaffolding on which we could rest our exhausted bodies and weary hearts to make it through one more day. And to this day, we continue to draw strength from that well of love and compassion. It was proof that even in his passing, our beloved Ben could bring people together.

“The planting of a tree in his memory on the Beacon Academy campus lifted our spirits for it was like a beacon of light that we so needed in the darkness of our sorrow. You showed us how much Benjamin was loved and that you were one with us in our grief. We were told that ‘The tree represents hope that Ben’s life continues in his friends and in the students who will walk our corridors as he did.’ And for our family and for everyone who loves Ben, the planting of the tree also marked the start of each of our individual journeys moving forward and a fervent wish that when we come to visit the tree in the future, that just as it has grown, so have we – in wisdom, understanding, compassion and our capacity to love.

“This is our family’s wish for all of you – as you now move forward, wherever your path may take you, may one thing remain constant.  May you always have the courage to be kind.  May you have the courage to cross barriers that too often separate us. It could be the fear of rejection or being ignored that stops us; perhaps, the convenience to stay in our own familiar space or a pre-occupation with our own pressing concerns. But kindness is a conscious choice and often it is the smallest of gestures that leave the greatest impact on our hearts.

“I always told Ben that the real change that we hope to see in this world will not be in our generation but in yours. And if there is only one thing that you carry with you as a reminder of Ben, let it be this – may you always find the courage to be kind – for this is what has defined Ben’s life and the legacy for which he would want to be remembered.

“Our family has more tears to shed and it will take a while before the ache of missing Ben will not be as constant but because you have reached out to us and loved us and cared for us, we would want you to know this – we will make it through – with faith in God and His promise, with love, with the kinship of family and friends.”

To Dr. Canlas, Glennda and their family, our deepest condolences as we share in your grief. In Ben’s memory, we promise to have the courage to be kind. And if others promise this, too, the world can only become better because of Ben.

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