To life

Written on October 1, 2014.

*

The corridors echoed with the sounds of our footsteps walking among the crypts of the dead. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one before but ours can be found in the basement of the Christ the King church. Lined along the room are rows and rows of marble slabs with names and dates and flowers. Some have pictures hanging on the front ; the others, poetry.

A crypt is not all that scary — not the way one would imagine it, I suppose. It’s quiet and solemn, a home for urns and ashes. My grandpa was placed there in 1997 after he died of a stroke. Last year, after a quick battle with colon cancer, we placed my grandma there as well. Her plaque reads: Fideliza Kim Flores: April 26, 1920 – August 5, 2013.

It took 16 years til she was finally reunited with her husband again.

My mom placed fresh flowers in a vase and lay her hand on the slab of marble. She is an orphan in the world now. Yes, she belongs to me and my siblings but now in her 50’s, she is parent-less. What an inevitable tragedy for all children. She sent prayers to the dead, each laced with quiet longing, as I looked at the neighboring crypts.

It seems absurd sometimes, death. I know we are all going to cease to exist someday but the idea of it can sometimes seem so strangely unreal.

The crypts closest to my grandparents’ had dates I couldn’t wrap my head around. Men and women born in the 1800’s who died in the early 1900’s, true citizens of a history I will only ever read about. I wondered what their lives had been like, if they had fallen in love and dreamed big dreams. I wondered if they had been celebrated or vilified, if someone still remembered them to this day. I wondered if their names still touched live lips.

 Some of the men and women in those crypts had lived long lives. 70, 80, 90 years. Some had fought in war, most had Iived under duress; under more difficult economic and social-political conditions than I may ever know. I, on the other hand, had just celebrated my birthday. I am clumsy and prone to disaster but I had managed to live through 26 years. I am still here. That was the thought that reverberated in my head:

I am still here, I am still here, I am still here.

 How did I manage that, to exist in a time of grave uncertainty and danger, without finding myself in my own marble cubby hole, my own square grave? I was not a person who had ever been favored by the odds — well, that’s what I had thought for years until now. Sure, I was no stranger to heartbreak. Sure, I had been violated and victimized and manipulated. But I was also entirely privy to a wonderful thing: life.

I don’t know how I have managed to avoid mortal peril but I do think it is an insult, at this point, to dwell. To wonder any longer because every second spent in doubt is a second of possibility wasted. And possibility is the hope of the living. Becsuse, yes, death is real but it’s not realer than life. Not today, at least. Today, life wins.

 I am alive and I am still here and I am going to live.

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