Too young, too soon
By the time I started writing this story, I knew he was gone for a long journey, and he would never come back again. His stay was short, yet memories of him will linger with us who had been blessed by his presence. “He was too young, and his journey was too short,” I recalled someone saying at the necrological services for a former patient who had succumbed to the Big C.
That patient of mine was an ardent Adventist, a devoted head of the family, and a respected colleague in his religious community. Throughout his life, he had enjoyed his time with his family and his church. He never considered chemotherapy or any surgical procedure we had offered to him. He believed that when God wanted his presence, he had to go without hesitation and without delay. His family, knowing that he was going to die, had the opportunity to put things in order. On the day he died, the members of his family were inside his hospital room, surrounding him and assuring him they would be all right should he wish to leave.
His acceptance of death was truly inspiring. He composed the songs to be sung by the choir during his funeral services. To me his death story was like a fairy tale that ended with “and they lived happily ever after.” An expected death seemed to me like a better way to go than one that happens on short notice, or even without a notice. Others like my friend Mike didn’t have the opportunity to experience such a peaceful death.
I was shocked to hear the bad news being relayed to me over the phone. The caller was his best friend and cousin, and he was saying, “Bry, wala na si Mike.” He was crying over the phone.
I was moved to tears by the unexpected news. Mike was only 22 years old. He was the only child and both of his parents were working abroad. He was a new registered nurse.
I responded with shock to the announcement of his death, and asked him how and when it happened.
“Minutes ago,” his cousin said still sobbing. “I am still in the emergency room. He had no enemies. He got hit by a stray bullet. ”
The cousin narrated that Mike was taking his meal in an eatery when a gun man on board a motorcycle opened fire. The target, was a barangay official (who also got killed in the shooting). Mike was hit on the chest and the bullet pierced his heart. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
I had known Mike since he was a college freshman. We were dorm mates. He was an intelligent, good natured, humble and silent person. We constantly talked about show biz, politics, hospital duty, and so many other things. We used to watch horror movies inside our room with the lights off, and I would laugh when I noticed how afraid he was to go out of the room later. There were times when our other dorm mates would turn off the light as he was taking a shower in our communal bathroom. And then he would scream until they turned it on again.
At his wake, I saw Mike in a coat and tie, lying on a silvery coffin. The smile on his face was gone.
I could feel the heartache and grief of his parents who could not spend much time with him, and had to fly back to the country, not to attend his oath taking as a nurse, but to attend to his burial. I could see in their faces their deep sadness over having their only child taken away from them. The grandmother who raised him up was also filled with grief. His loved ones and friends shared the same feelings of loss, regret, and disappointment over what happened to him. It was a death we never expected, a senseless killing of an innocent person, a young man with many dreams and the potential to help others. Brian had a pure heart who did not judge people or hold grudges against others.
On the day he was buried next to his grandfather, we were weeping over the loss of a good friend. Why him? Why too soon? Why him, he was too young? What would happen to his dreams of having a family of his own, working as a nurse or as a broadcast journalist? Is it true that the good die young? What kind of death do we wish for ourselves? Do we want to die expectedly like my former patient, or suddenly like Mike? Should we fear death? I guess not, because each of us will come face to face with it in God’s own time. I know Mike was not ready when his time came. But God decides. The people who killed him will soon face their own death. If justice cannot be served hear on Earth, then God will surely judge them in due time.
Mike’s death was untimely. He never had the chance to kiss his parents and say goodbye. But maybe God wants them to do it when they see each other again in His kingdom where peace and love abound. When God calls us to be with Him for eternity, who are we to say not yet? Who are we to disobey His will? We can only wish that God takes us when we are old enough, when our family and loved ones are ready and prepared, and when we have accomplished much of what we dreamed of.
Each passing day could be our last. We should seize it as an opportunity to live life fully.
(Brian Ranoco Eclarinal, 27, is a staff nurse at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, Manila.)