I CAME across a painting titled, “There’s Nothing Glorious About Dying. Anyone Can Do It” and thought the artist was right—life expires and it is nothing out of the ordinary.

But what most people don’t see is that those who cease to exist may have the best seats in the house since the glory comes in the afterlife. Those who took the righteous path during the course of their lifetime would bask under God’s overflowing incandescence and would share every abstract space with all the angels and saints should they enter their final destination.

But what if someone close to you dies by his own hand? After all, Catholic teaching has always given me the impression that there is only one verdict for those who commit suicide.

About a year ago, a dear friend of mine killed himself. Being the eldest among my siblings, I looked up to my cousins as my kuyas. Since they treated Jerrick Lin like a brother, I considered him my kuya as well.

Jer, as I used to call him, always had this animated disposition that could light up the room even when everyone was down in the dumps. Despite his sprightly character, I always knew him to be brutally honest and overly protective. He was the one who relentlessly told me: “Don’t do stupid things you know you’ll end up regretting.”

Being the free spirit that he was, he never forgot to look after me even when he was out on his trips.

When he decided to undergo military training in Taiwan, I didn’t know that things would never go back to the way they were.

Jose Rizal: A birthday wish list

As Jer’s training regimen got stricter and as my college life grew busier, the phone calls stopped, and eventually, so did the online conversations.

It was a Saturday night when my younger brother told me that Jer was online and needed to talk to me badly. I just came home from school and I thought that Jer could wait. It was then that I mindlessly told brother: “Tell him pauwi pa lang ako and that I’m tired. Next week na lang.” If I knew it was the last time I could speak to Jer, I would have instantly dropped everything.

The week had barely started when my cousin received a phone call from Jer’s mom. Jer was found hanging by his uniform belt in his military quarters and had slipped into comatose. I was so angry with him for acting so stupid and was thinking of how hard I was going to punch him once he woke up—but he never did.

Two days passed and I had kept one thing on my mind: Jer was still alive. As long as his heart was beating, we were going to fight for him through our prayers.

It was during class one Wednesday night when my best friend broke the news. In the middle of seatwork, I answered a call, and a weak voice on the other line croaked: “Wala na si Jer.” Everything went still, and suddenly, life was in monochrome.

Despite being in a deep coma, Jer had his heart beating with a machine because as doctors wanted to preserve it for donation. For me, it sparked what little hope there was. I asked God to grant a miracle and give my “honorary brother” a second chance.

CSC 'Infoblast' downed by typhoon 'Basyang'

I knew it was wrong, but my faith started to fade. There was even a time I demanded God to take me instead. In the end, I asked forgiveness and prayed that He execute his plan come what may. Facing reality, I prayed to God to please give Jer what he wanted in the first place—freedom. After so many opinions from the doctors, Jer’s family eventually decided to pull the plug.

When I entered his room and saw nothing but the urn containing his ashes, I didn’t cry, but I couldn’t bring myself to take another step either. As much as I wanted to comfort Jer’s mother and brother, I felt like I wasn’t really there. I felt like a traitor for not being there for him when he needed me the most.

In all honesty, Jer’s death made me want to disappear. I knew I needed God during that ordeal, but praying had become a phone call with bad reception. I felt like no matter how hard I tried, God would not listen to me given the manner of Jer’s death.

I was practically angry at everyone, especially when I would dream of him. I often found myself wanting to be alone. I would imagine his voice scolding away when I did something I knew he wouldn’t approve of. Somehow, it felt like it was now my obligation to keep him alive because that’s what I failed to do before.

It wasn’t until early this summer that I felt the anger slowly wane after speaking with a priest. At first, the conversation got me flaring, and before I knew it, my eyes started to well with tears. Looking back, I don’t even know why I got angry. It was after that encounter that I started to talk about Jer without crying or wanting to do something irrational. It was also when I started to talk to God again. A lot of people may disagree, but He is beyond what is literal and what is widely accepted. I know God will always look out for Jer and make sure that he is in a better place now.

Overcoming freshmen jitters

Life won’t stop just because someone else’s ended. We often forget that a plan is constantly unfolding. It is through this unraveling that we must learn to move on and live not only for ourselves, but for others as well—for those who are with us and for those who have already gone.

Jer, I’ll see you again in time. I hope you find it in your heart to still confide in me. Until then, I have only one thing to say to you: I bet your halo’s a perfect fit.


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