I received an email from an old friend, Christine Leviste-Consunji. She was asking for prayers for one of her sisters, who would be undergoing surgery for cancer. Needless to say, this took me by surprise. My mind wandered off to the early 70’s when we were in high school. The Leviste home was about two blocks from my high school. We would all hang out in the afternoons after school while we waited for Glee Club practice to start. Then we’d walk back. The Leviste household was not small. There were seven children in all, four girls and three boys. My classmate, Cari, was the youngest. Over the next four years, I got to know each family member, including her parents.
I asked Christine if it might be Cari having the surgery. True enough, it was Cari going under the knife, for cancer of the uterus, early stage.
I look back at all my friends from my childhood years. There was Margie Gomez, who succumbed to leukemia a year after she graduated, with honors, from La Salle University. Or Lizette Gustilo, who drowned when the boat she and her mother were in, hit a barge in the middle of the night and sank within 20 minutes, the news reported. Then, there is dear Loudette Zaragoza-Banson, with a litany of health problems, the latest of which, is her breast cancer. I can’t help but be awed by her courage and relentless passion for life. And Vanna Virata, who is just recovering from aggressive therapy for advanced ovarian cancer. Now, Cari joins them.
I wonder if they see their lives differently everyday now. I wonder if they become acutely aware of many many things, which, if they were not afflicted with these maladies, would these just slide off their backs and go unnoticed? Unappreciated? I wonder if an apple is juicier and sweeter to them, because they know they would not be eating apples for a long time. Or that a smile would be infinitely more exquisite because they would not be the recipients of it again.
I am reminded of Colin Firth’s character, George Falconer, in A Single Man, wherein, George’s experiences of even the smallest details on that day became so hyper-acute, in light of his contemplated suicide.
Sometimes I wonder what all this hype about living healthy in order to live longer, is all about. Is it really worth it? I look at a lot of older people, people in their 80’s and I wonder if they are happy in their day-to-day. I want to ask them, “Is it all really worth the trouble? Is this how you thought it would be?” I’m not trying to glamorize dying young or young-er. I think about longevity as something many of us aspire to be blessed with and at the same time work at. But really, is death so hideous that we do everything to approach immortality?
On the other hand, I strongly oppose dying by my own hands. I would not wish it on anyone, even people I believe to be the lowliest kind. Suicide is an act of cowardice, even in any discussion outside of any religion. It is irresponsible, narcissistic even.
Hearing about what ails people who I shared part of my life with in the past makes me very grateful for what I have. I am blessed, living in a beautiful country, a roof over my head, having a family who loves me and I them, friends to share stories with, and a passion for my work and for exploring the world out there.