By By Pablo A. Tariman
GONE TO THE STARS
posted 10 days ago  ·  
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Sunset in the Island

The frequency with which death notices are posted on FB has made us all numb by the inevitability of it all.

A friend has found a way to announce death when our common friend (jazz icon Jacqui Magno) also quietly moved on early morning on the 21st of June.

Wrote she: “And now she is of the stars. Jacqui Magno is.”

Another commented on that post: “Sing with the angels forever Jacqui Magno!”

Now I am nervous, I confided to the same friend.

Hold on, she said. Remember you have to fly to Singapore to see your youngest granddaughter in July.

When death stares at you in the eye, you reflect on your own condition.

Surrounded by eye drops, maintenance pills and pain relievers, you begin to look at life as something that can be taken away from you at any time.

The good doctor says stage 2 hypertension may not look critical but its consequence is that it can strike in the dead of night and leave you lifeless without warning.

And so, you stop short and reflect on a 70-year-old life.

One night, while trying to catch sleep, you are drawn to a TV documentary on victims of heart failure. It doesn’t choose its victims. A taxi driver and a business executive are found dead in their work stations.

The following day, you read the news that a director-friend was found unresponsive in his home, and was pronounced dead in a hospital.

Here and there, there is a feast of eulogies on FB.

Film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli dead at 96.

The famous heiress Gloria Vanderbilt dead at 95.

You enjoy an intimate early dinner with friends during a heavy rain. We all figured out the departure area is not so far but we hold on to our maintenance pills and hoping we last till the next concert ovation.

Stepping outside the restaurant as the rain subsided, you hear of the death of the great actor, Eddie Garcia.

You realize with sadness that at your age, your friends and acquaintance and your idols are going fast.

When the results of the battery of medical tests get to you, you realize you have to say goodbye to many things you hold dear: a yearly island music festival, endless beer after a good concert, splurging on seafood and high-cholesterol appetizers.

The initial fear has set in, and you visit your grandchildren more often than usual. You think that every moment could be your last, and the memory of the smile of your youngest grandchild is all you want to carry to your grave.

Then you make a new resolution: You can’t watch all the concerts, you can’t be in all ballet opening nights, and you can’t be forever covering deficits for non-revenue concerts.

Three years ago, I promised that a Manila concert was going to be my last. That was meant to be broken. I brokered 7 all-Chopin recitals in five provinces in less than two weeks.

A world-famous diva dedicated an aria to me and I gave her a hug in the middle of the concert amid a cheering audience. I thought it was a beautiful night, and I ended up breaking doctor’s orders by ordering endless rounds of beer as I listened to anecdotes on art and life from my favorite diva and a celebrated tenor.

That foreign diva gave me 37 years of lessons on opera that I would never get from music schools.

As I figure it out now, you can’t have everything. As the song goes, good things never last. You watch a good movie by a millennial director and you get a glimpse of your own youth now gone.

Is there life after rounds of consultations with an ophthalmologist, a cardiologist and heaven knows what else if another ailment manifested itself in your 70-year-old body?

No, a Bible-quoting life is out of the question. I can quote from favorite operas but the Bible has somehow eluded me.

Since you are not a likely candidate for sainthood, you resolve to just learn to be more real, to be more accepting, to be more forgiving of yourself and to stop complaining.

You stop being sorry for yourself and you begin to be happy for others. And you see deliverance from cars and houses that will not materialize in this lifetime.

Meanwhile, you dutifully attend the weddings of close relatives and friends. You try to be around at their birthday parties. You check your bank balance and buy an inexpensive barong for the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter.

You look at the cheapest barong you can have and you tell yourself, “If we all go back to our grave, who would know which barong was special and which one the most inexpensive?”

The sight and smell of death you cannot endure.

You stand firm on one thing: You cannot go to wakes and cannot participate in necrological services.

In a given week in my island province, a nephew is getting married, and I visit nephews and grandnieces. And before I head for the airport back to Manila, I visit my loved ones’ resting places in the cemetery.

Like it or not, it won’t be long before I join them. I can see my daughters lighting votive candles for the repose of my soul years from now.

In this world you live, in this world you perish. It is the usual cycle, retold countless times in literature and cinema.

But you hold on and cherish what you think are values that still count.

For as someone wise had said, “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”


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