"I have seen many people of all sorts die, and not one of them feared death once it was inevitable." -- Abbé Henri de Tourville
Have you ever come across this word and just as quickly decided to move on and dismiss the thought as though it did not exist? I have struggled with this reality at a very early age and has come to terms with it on my own. Life to me is synonymous with death in the sense that one is not complete without the other. When I was three years old my grandmother died of heart ailment and we had to go to our province to attend the funeral. It didn't register to me back then what it means because as I related in my previous stories I could still sense my lola's presence even after they said to me that she's already gone.
The realization of my own mortality came to me two years later because of an incident that I will never forget. I had a distant uncle who was my mother's cousin who lived with us back in the mid-seventies. When he got married my mother gave him permission to build a small house in the back of our home. When he finished it his wife moved in and they settled there for quite a while. I don't recall exactly now how it came about but they also happen to have a dog that I became attached to and would frequently come over to pet with. But one day out of the blue, this dog bit me on my left thigh. The strangest thing of all, I didn't tell anyone what happened including my parents. I just kept the whole episode to myself and decided to forget it ever happened.
After this incident happened, I began to hear stories about how people can die and have died because of rabies from dog bite. Being an impressionable kid that I was, I soaked this all in my young mind until this story was related to me that suddenly hit me like a lightning bolt: I heard somebody said (as to its accuracy today, I cannot really say) that FPJ's dad, the late Fernando Poe Sr., who as a side trivia for those who do not know was the model of the University of the Philippines' Oblation, died in 1951 when he let a rabid puppy lick a wound he sustained during a film shoot. I also do not remember where I got this other information that stuck with me but I also got this impression that it can take up to six years before somebody finally dies of this rabies infection. Of course, I realized much later when I finally surpassed this mental ordeal that this was greatly exaggerated since the incubation period can range from 10 days to 2 years at most.
Nevertheless, I thought to myself that my life was doomed. But being the ever optimistic guy that I am, I seriously gave myself six years to live! I find that somewhat funny and amusing now but back then it was very real to me. I can still remember that awful day of realization, what I was wearing, the sights and activities that surrounded me as if it was all trapped in an hourglass that was now tipped over and the sands of time slowly but surely starting to fall and with every grain representing each second of my life that was now slipping away in front of me. All of this at the tender age of five. Just imagine how this has radically changed my thinking and perception of life. In all honesty, I wasn't afraid at all. I just sort of accepted it point blank and made a mental note in my mind that when I reach eleven or twelve at most, I'll be dead.
This event practically made me a mature man, at least in my own thinking, overnight. My whole perception of the world changed. Before I used to think that the whole world revolved around me. After that it seemed that I'm just a speck of insignificant dust in the cosmos of my existence. And so I made every minute and day count. No amount of self help book today could have thought me everything I have learned at that young age on my own about life and priorities. I came to look at things on a different pair of eyes and what I saw was a beautiful world. John Lennon's song "Imagine" encapsulates all that I have envisioned at that tender age. Hence I have become an achiever. I studied really hard even if deep inside I knew that I'm not that smart. I also became unselfish and thought of others first before my own. I became generous and more forgiving. I also began to search for God.
Some of my classmates in grade school must have thought of me being strange. While all they can think of then was having fun and being care-free, here I was being a diligent student who helps my teacher clean up after school and never wastes time idling around but goes straight home everyday. Not that I have not enjoyed my childhood anymore. There's still time for me to hang around with my friends but more than that, I get to talk to them about serious stuff about life although I wasn't quite sure whether they understood me back then. Finally, I turned twelve and everything was anti-climactic to me by then. Through those years I doubted if I was really going to die but if I did then I was surely ready. But nothing happened. So I just moved on with living.
If you ask me what I think of death, I'd say death is very much like sleeping. But the strangest twist must be to find out after you died that you were just sleeping and dreaming all along. And you suddenly woke up.
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