Friday, December 20, 2013

Dying Beautifully

Seventeen years ago my father died peacefully in his sleep and in the manner he always said he wanted  to leave this world - without fuss, without unnecessary pain and without subjecting his family to the rigors and demands of a death coming only after a protracted and prolonged bout with some dreaded and debilitating disease.

He had lived a rich and full life, most of it lived in the service of others. He had been a physician and healer for most of his life, a rare artist with the surgeon's knife, a tool which he wielded with such consummate skill and panache that stories of the many medical miracles he had wrought in the operating room in his time are still being told and even embellished to this day among old-timers here in Lianga.

When he went to sleep on that night many many years ago and did not wake up at dawn as he normally did for the most of his life, he was already a much loved and respected man in this town. In death, lying serenely in bed with the bed covers unrumpled and with nary a trace of discomfort on his face, he was the picture of a man who had left life with no regrets and with no hint of bitterness or ambivalence. It was the way he always wanted to go, quietly and quickly.

It has often been taken as an article of the wisdom of the ancients that a man reaps what he sows.  Thus it is a sure consequence of divine justice for a man to pass on to the next world in a way that is commensurate with the manner in which he had lived his life. Bloodthirsty warmongers and merciless killers of men are believed to be fated to end their lives just as violently and in the same sickeningly bloody fashion with which they gleefully dispatched from life their helpless victims.

Those less savage in nature yet still grossly insensitive and cruelly callous to the sensibilities and emotional needs of others while still living are doomed with facing the prospect of the gut-wrenching process of being suddenly snatched from life into death alone, lonely, neglected, uncared-for and forgotten. Good and loving men, on the other hand, are said to be deserving of calm, peaceful and comfortable deaths, their passing greatly mourned and the memory of their lives and works long remembered and never forgotten.

Dying the death one deserves or wants is, of course, never a sure thing and there are many instances and ways of losing one's life which, from the point of view of those who have been left behind, offer no logical or rational context from which to draw even small comfort or emotional closure from. Take for example the death of thousands of innocents as a result of the fury of Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas recently.  Where indeed, many of the survivors ask, is the divine reason and justification for the seemingly random yet massively wanton destruction and loss of life foisted on this nation in the wake of that natural disaster.

Yet Jose Yu Otagan's remarkably calm and serene exit from life in the early morning hours of December 20 exactly seventeen years ago to this day is remarkable in itself because, unlike most ordinary men, he got exactly the death he wanted, desired and which he had, in his very private and intimately vulnerable moments, so earnestly asked for. Dying the way he did also helped his family and relatives cope with the sudden and crushing pain of unexpectedly losing him just when he was on the verge of enjoying the golden years of his full retirement from almost three decades of caring for the medical needs of others.

Perhaps his passing on, the way he did, does prove in one shining instance that there is indeed, in the great divine plan that determines the secret workings of the vast cosmos within which we live out our current existence, a great karmic law that does reward the virtuous and, in the same arcane, seemingly whimsical yet sure manner, punish evildoers by granting men, the death they so truly and so gloriously deserve. Perhaps, the granting of such a gift is never automatic and mandatory but set in motion by a divinely benevolent will akin to the granting of divine grace, a favor given unexpectedly yet never arbitrarily as a manifestation of the Creator's love and His recognition of a particular mortal life lived in an exemplary manner.

If that is indeed the case then perhaps, after eternal life and admittance to heaven and paradise, the grant of a beautiful death may be the gift of the greatest and inestimable value. For the dying it lessens beyond doubt the trauma of the transition from one life to the other. For the living it affirms their faith and trust not only in the Maker of all life but also in the spiritual rewards of a life lived justly and unselfishly.

In life we who still live may be different in many things but we are all the same in the inevitability of our death and exit from this life. How we die may be as important as how we live our lives and those who die beautiful deaths may be the most blessed among us.

1 comment:

  1. A touching piece fitting for a man loved by the Liangueños.