Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Death of a classmate

Posted on June 03, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 3, 2018 – 12:00am

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Joey, you lived a good life. You were a good person. Your classmates stand proudly and applaud at the idea that you have not just done your mission but have also become one with God.

The message I saw on Viber a few mornings ago was a rude awakening. Our classmate Jose Biglete Zuñiga had suddenly passed on. Everyone in our class was shocked. We still are. We haven’t stopped talking about Joey’s demise since.

Joey Zuñiga seemed healthy and strong. In fact, he was one those classmates who still looked very youthful. His gait was that of a young man. To me, he did not look any different from 45 years ago when we finished college. He did not even have white hair. You had to look hard to find any wrinkles on his face. Classmates say he jogged every morning. He looked fit. He did not seem to have any of the physical pains many of us in class are already feeling due to the onset of old age. During class parties he was one of those who danced a lot.

And then came the terrible news that he had suddenly died. Soon after the announcement, we learned that he had had cancer of the lymphatic nodes a few years back. He underwent chemotherapy and it seemed he had conquered it. Apparently, it made a vicious comeback. He had kept the news about his condition to himself mostly. Except for his family and a few classmates, no one knew.

Hearing of someone dying, a relative, a classmate, or anyone we know and have had pleasant interactions with is always devastating. But for our class, it was more than that. We are all going into our late 60s and it is beginning to really dawn on us that time is fleeting fast as we march towards our sunset years. This reminder seemed especially cruel to hear. Many of my classmates already have health issues. Some are moderate while some need more medical attention.
Even for those who are still fit and healthy and who exercise regularly, the news of Joey suddenly dying hit hard. It can happen anytime, to any of us. And yet, no matter how often we are reminded, the reality of death is so shocking and abhorrent that it shakes us every time someone dies.

Prior to hearing about Joey’s death, the topic in our viber discussion thread was death itself. Before that, it was religion, the meaning of life, God, etc. The death of our dear classmate made me think about my own life and how tenuous and fragile it actually is. I am sure everyone had the same thought.

A lot of us posted about our last interaction with him. The last three times I saw him, he asked how I saw the political landscape. He seemed worried and upset. He was close to angry at how things were unraveling. After the conversations, he cautioned me to take care of myself since I can be very vocal about things. “Ingat, pare,” he said to me each time.
Our Viber group has been a beehive lately. Many have been sharing their feelings, their grief. Names of classmates who had passed on before have been reposted several times. We remember them with fondness. We still feel their loss in our lives.

I sense that we have mostly been showing up on Viber not just to express our shock at Joey’s death but also to comfort each other. There is genuine concern, fondness among our classmates. Our friendships are decades old. The bonding and camaraderie are wonderful and healing. Thanks to technology, even those who have migrated to other parts of the world are brought into the conversation.

My eldest brother Jesse, who is 15 years ahead of me, has been attending wakes more often these days. The death count is expected to increase more frequently. Their class is much older and the latest census shows that 72 of his classmates have passed on and 72 remain.

While our class is still in a more optimistic situation, I know we will also get there.

Captain Hook in the movie Pan by Spielberg called death “the final adventure.” No one knows what is out there. And yet, we will all go though it.

We are suffering and grieving the death of Joey right now. Death is indeed a thief in the night. But perhaps its sting may really be overrated.

Maybe we might even be completely wrong about death. I don’t know. But since no one really knows anything about it firsthand, I am suggesting a coping way to look at death. It is this: Joey is finally free from all physical, emotional and psychological suffering and pain. His mission on earth has ended. He now rests eternally.

And let me push the envelope a bit more. Could it be possible that the day we die may actually be the happiest day of our lives? Why, you may ask?

Well, why not? For those who have faith, it has to be THE event of events. It has to be that since the whole search is over and we finally meet our loving God and experience unconditional love, and get to answer all of life’s greatest mysteries and questions.

If this is indeed true (and personally I believe it is), then maybe we should mourn less and instead honor the journey of each soul that leaves the earthly plane and joins eternity. We celebrate it the way we do with every passage in life.

Joey, you lived a good life. You were a good person. We, your earthly classmates, stand proudly and applaud the idea that you have not just done your mission but have also become one with God. That is the greatest thing we actually all strive for.

‘Til we meet again, Joey. And I wish the same for all who have gone before, and for all of us who will surely follow. The heavenly reunion that awaits will be the happiest one and will have complete attendance.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/06/03/1820993/death-classmate#YWLthG8Ol3yPxZ66.99

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