THE DAY MY SISTER PASSED AWAY
National hero, Dr. Jose Rizal on the eve of his execution wrote a poem and the last stanza goes “ Adios, queridos séres morir es descansar.” (Dearly beloved all, farewell! In death there is rest!) Rizal was a busy body and had a lot of enemies mostly the colonial masters of the country then. Pursuing reforms had been a messy affair. He was banished and his family was also implicated. They had to suffer and were haunted in the process. Rizal was never panicky on the way to the gallows. He must be reciting his poem. He knew that dying is finding rest.
My sister, Doris, might have uttered the same phrase for she was witnessing herself slowly weakening and in pain always. She was meticulous in her projections. She evaded pain physically. She abhorred idling even if it means recuperation. Her mind was very active at times to the detriment of her sensitive anatomy. She was a scholar ever since she entered the academe up to the time she left the portal of her school. Even as she ascended in her career, she would still find time to study and earn additional degrees. In between her studies there was motherhood, friendship and organization. At times, she would encounter challenges which she could barely understand. Scholars are in their best element only inside the confines of their classroom but were to a large extent never street smart. They knew reality through notes and readings and never through exposure on the glare and happenstance obtaining outside.
It is no wonder that my sister, ever the scholar in the family, would find her usual bubble inside the school. Before she left this world, she was a month short of earning her nth degree, a doctoral in criminal justice administration.
She went through a lot of struggles mostly in the school setting. Sometimes, frustrations would be encountered and she would be at logger heads with her school, at times on some policy disagreements with her superiors and peers. There were occasions when I will be drawn into it when she would ask for counsel but for street smarts like me, she would retreat hearing something which is never related in dogmatic terms. And so she would recoil back to her enclave tapping theories she must have taken note. Her erudition would never shield her from dissatisfaction though. She could get along and would be recognized later.
It is her flirting with sharing knowledge that made her forget about a healthy lifestyle. She would circumnavigate the world to spread her ideas on technical education. She would fill up her entire calendar of activities, lecturing here, travelling there, and sharing this, explaining that. She was almost everywhere and her schedule was not only backbreaking, it was stupendously haphazard for her frail body. In the end, her internal organs could no longer cope up with her routine. While her mind was designed to defy physics, her body was just too soft to take in physical sacrifices.
She was diagnosed with big C and that was where she began her travails. It was almost a year of struggling to understand and heal her worsening condition. Her body must be subjected to the latest medical procedure using chemicals and radiation as intervention. She must concentrate on her therapy. But having felt relief, even if she still has to fully recuperate, she combined her treatment with school work. She even enrolled in graduate school side by side her regular trips abroad to share studies and conduct conferences. The stress and tensions she introduced into her work system contributed largely to the deterioration of her health. She was no longer the intellectual athletic but her mind could not accept such a situation. She struggled but her physical strength could no longer bear the tenacity of her mind.
In the end, as she probably felt her legs unable to carry her balance, without the appetite that would allow her to taste her favorite dishes, without the looks that could charm her audience, she probably felt that finding rest is the only option available.
To rest means to finally rejoin father and mother and a few of her friends who have gone in life hereafter. She was asleep unmindful of her heart. She must be very, very tired with all the steel invading her body, chemicals she must induce into her system, the rigid medication, the pain, everything. She wished a break, some respite from it all. She must have uttered a small prayer, as always, to remind her of faith and the phrase which she oftentimes would hear declaimed by father, a Spanish professor and a teacher of Rizal Course, “Dearly beloved all…farewell…in death there is rest.”