Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Remembering the dead

Inspired by the teachings of his new religious sect, my father has been passionately urging us nowadays to turn away from traditional practices of praying for the dead and going to the cemetery on All Saints' Day. "Let the dead take care of themselves," says my father. This was supposed to be the doctrine handed down by the carpenter from Nazareth to his disciples: each of us is responsible for his/her own salvation. So, these past days, it was my father's turn to stay alone at home. My mother went with my aunts to visit my uncle's and grandparents' graves somewhere north of Manila. I went to a local cemetery to visit my son's grave.

Days before, my mother told me about these plans by the city government to finally pave the "road" inside the local cemetery. I had to put road in quotes because the portion of the cemetery to which it refers is now all covered with graves. And as I walked on top of these graves, I found many of them had already been opened by the caretakers and their contents transferred to box-like compartments set against the perimeter walls of the cemetery (the poor people's graves and what they would like to call "apartments"). My son's grave is only a few inches from the edge of this planned road. So his remains would probably have to be moved also to one of these boxes in the coming days.

I paid this guy fifty pesos to clean the small grave and spruce it up with white paint. While he was going through his business, he kept telling me about all these disturbances caused by the road project and the failure of the authorities to inform the public. When I was finally alone (relatively), I lit up two candles and placed them at the foot of the grave. For the nth time, I recalled that stormy night at the neonatal intensive care unit when I held my son's hand while his undeveloped lungs desperately gasped for air. I don't know if this would pass on as prayer. But bringing up that memory whenever I have these existential angst attacks has been an automatic thing for me by now. Like a sort of a ritual.

A few breaths. This existence hangs by the thinnest thread of just a few breaths. And we carry on with our sturdiest faith in such reality.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

I guess that "Faith" is the greatest armor we can wear.

I didn't go to the sementeryo this year not a first for me. I haven't visited my mom's grave for several years but I always have her in my prayers.