Call it serendipity, call it a love story

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 7, 2013 – 12:00am

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everything seemed hopeless, where you had actually given up on life itself, but then help suddenly came along?Call it the answered prayer, a miracle, serendipity, a lucky break or whatever else. When it happens, it can be completely life-changing.

I had a friend who left the Philippines before he finished high school to migrate to the US. I actually knew him for just about three years. We were year mates and it was that time in our lives when we were going through a lot of formative experiences — our first drink, prom, date, girlfriends, teenage angst, fights, and a lot juvenile high school discoveries and craziness.

A big part of our life then revolved around the barkada. Our peer group was our support system in almost all ways. We ran to our friends when we were in trouble or even just for company. We shared our experiences and secrets with our mates. We all asked for each other’s advice in many matters and ways. We also laughed, cried and did a lot of things together.

My friend came back to the Philippines to visit a few years ago. We had more than a great time. But it was only yesterday that I found out how terribly important his visiting the Philippines and seeing all of us again, were to him. It was much more than I, or he, had imagined.

My wife saw him on her trip to San Francisco recently and he narrated to her what it all meant from his point of view.When he left during high school, we had almost lost touch completely. It was some six or seven years later when we heard from him. He was in Washington in 1974, and it so happened APO was touring the US at the time and so we got together but very briefly. After that, he had disappeared completely — or so we thought.

Time marched on, and since ‘74, we had all gotten married, had children and built careers and gotten older with the passage of time.When he came back to the Manila for a visit a few years ago, he had just been through a divorce. He had also lost his job, and was suffering from a bad back injury. He was also broke. He had told us that much. But I learned from Lydia, my wife, that he had come back to literally say goodbye to his past, and to everything else that meant anything to him.

He was down and out on his luck. As far as he was concerned, everything in his life had bottomed out and there was really nothing to live for. He was here to take a last look before he was to bid life farewell.He came here not knowing whether we would even remember him. He had no great hopes about that. After all, in his mind, he felt that we may have forgotten him completely, or would vaguely remember him if at all, or worse, not even care to see him. He had only spent three years with us, and high school seemed eons ago, he thought. From a distance he may have imagined that we were all successful and happy with our wives and families and doing well career-wise while he was down in the dumps with no sign of recovery. And that of course gave him all the more reason to be pessimistic about how this visit would go.

This was his last trip “home,” if he could even still call it that. But aside from seeing us, he also came for another reason, and it was to meet a child he had inadvertently fathered before he had left which he only heard about or discovered a few months before he decided to visit.

But he had a few things coming that he wasn’t prepared for.

To his big surprise and delight, when he came home, we greeted him with open arms. We all went out of our way to throw him a party, and spend a lot of time with him. We even went to Bagiuo. We talked about old times, drank a few, laughed a lot, teared up a bit while remembering the past. He was so happy to know that he had not been forgotten, that he was part of our individual and collective memory, and that the place he left a long time ago had actually not just recorded but treasured the times he was here.

On that same visit, he had asked about his previous high school girlfriend who happened to be my wife’s cousin. To make a long story short, even that turned out extremely auspicious. Meeting again brought them together in matrimony after a few months. They now share a happy life in San Francisico.

That visit which was supposed to be his goodbye to things that mattered to him actually became the turning point where he felt he had rediscovered the important elements in his life — friends, family, and love.Narrating all this to my wife, he said he saw the hand of God rescue him from his pitiful, sorry state of despair and deliver him to a state of new chances and opportunities for meaning and happiness in life. He felt he had been gifted with grace that was completely undeserved. It must have felt like winning some sort of lotto where the prize was something beyond any material value. He had a brand new lease on life itself.

How many of us have experienced something like this? I guess one can only come out of it with, at the very least, an optimism about life, but most likely with an unshakeable faith in a God who loves and cares for us.In life, the cavalry does show up occasionally. In my own experience, God, through many forms, has also intervened for my own good. Life is full of surprises and wonder. At the very least, we can’t write anything off. Anything can happen, and it usually does.

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