In memory of a friend

Photo credit: John Teo Abello

Some people come into our life like the fragrance of a flower carried by the breeze. The smell is fleeting but it can linger into our memory long after it is gone. That is how my friend Lee has been to me. We met in law school although I can no longer remember the first time we saw each other. What I remember to be our first interaction was after our class in criminal law, we just went through another round of recitation which can be a ‘traumatic’ experience commonly experienced in law school, he gave me a comforting smile as if to say we are all in this together or we are all on the same page. The next day he borrowed my book on Statutory Construction to have some pages photocopied.

We don’t belong to the same group of friends, me and Lee. In fact, I only see him during classes because he was always in a rush. He would come in late and leave right after class was over. I never had the opportunity to get to know him but I remember that each time I did see him, he was always smiling, always in a good mood. On rare occasions when he came early, our conversations were all about school, that he might miss our midterm exams for an official trip. He often sent me text messages asking for class updates and the things he missed when he was absent. It was from him I learned that there are several available reviewers online. Before our final exam in criminal law, he brought a reviewer that is not accessible online and allowed me to photocopy it. Despite not seeing him much, his constant text messages and those intermittent interactions full of encouragements and ideas gave me a feeling of closeness to him, something that I don’t have with some of my other classmates.

One uneventful day while still nursing my cough I learned that Lee has gone into a coma. Aneurysm, they said. Only miracle can save his life, they said. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I tried to recollect the last moment I saw him. It was after class, we just smiled at each other as we walked out of the classroom as I was talking to my other classmate. He sent me a few text messages in the days that ensued. I even felt guilty because at one point I thought why couldn’t he just come to class instead of asking me all the time how did it go. But I reminded myself that I don’t know what circumstances he was in at the moment so I should not make any judgment. Instead of waiting for him to ask, I then sent him a message that our grades in Statutory Construction and Legal Research were out but I didn’t get a reply… because in that instant he was already unconscious in the hospital bed.

There’s something about death or the possibility of dying that promptly brings us to the present moment, that enables us to reflect how well or badly we are spending the precious time we are given. I wondered how Lee spent the remaining hours of his conscious life. Did he enjoy the beautiful sunset the day before? Did he wake up to savor the warmth of sunrise, the cool morning breeze or that peculiar sound only heard in mornings? Did he take a few moments to relish his last meal, to savor every taste? Did he give his wife and six children warm hugs and sweet kisses? Did he tell them how much he loves them? It’s so sad to imagine that he spent his last day lazily, feeling sad about the past that he cannot undo or worrying about the future not knowing that such future isn’t ever going to come to him.

Thinking about it does change my perspective about tomorrows, as it always does with every death of a loved one. Unfortunately, such feeling of being in the present moment is so momentary it fades sooner than the mourning period is over. How easy it is for us to drift into our usual habits and forget to appreciate the mundane yet priceless moments before us.

Whatever you are doing right now, take a pause and allow yourself a few deep breathes, inhaling contentment and exhaling whatever negative feeling you are carrying at the moment. Whisper some words of gratitude to the universe, whatever it is that you are most thankful for. Give your sweetest smile to the first person you’ll bump into. And remember, we don’t know what tomorrow brings but we can change how we live today.

To my dear friend Lee, I may have missed my chances of telling you what an awesome person you are, I hope I made you feel that you matter somehow. When I visited you at the hospital, I learned from your siblings that aside from working as a full-time Literature teacher, you also teach during weekends at the Licensure Examination for Teachers Review Center. All these you did while attending a demanding law school. On top of these, I learned you were in the process of opening a restaurant and was looking for a chef. Oh, how I admire your hard work. You are someone who truly appreciates the time you were given and made the most of it. But most importantly, you brought up your kids so well, I’m sure someday you will be proud of them. Rest in peace, my friend. You are remembered fondly.


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