Thursday, July 10, 2014

Loss and Grief: A Friend's Deep Sorrow on Losing His Son

A friend, Prof. Rene Azurin, faculty member of the UP College of Business Administration, lost his son, Mikah due to sickness, last April. He has written several articles about Mikah. This is his latest article, posted in BusinessWorld today.

Being a father myself, I can relate to Rene's deep sorrow. Reposting it here, part of the travels and journeys of being a parent. Condolence once more, Rene....

HOW DOES one deal with losing a son? The terrible truth is, there is no way of “dealing” with such a soul-shrivelling tragedy. The grief is so overpowering that the best one can hope for is to snatch occasional glimpses of the world beyond the enveloping gloom so that one can at least function. Some days you can do this; most days you can’t.

The writer Joan Didion once wrote, “Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be.” That’s not actually true. Every parent has doubtless imagined -- in fearful, unguarded moments -- the horror of losing a beloved child. Every parent has an idea of what it might be like. It’s just that no parent can possibly be prepared for the emotional nuclear bomb that goes off should the unthinkable ever come to pass. No parent can be prepared for the silent scream that reverberates unendingly in your mind.

One of the things this does to us is blast away the belief all we parents share that, amid all of life’s uncertainties, we can be certain of at least one thing: that we will die before our children and that they will live full lives after we’ve gone. In our minds, we will thus have seeded the future with better versions of ourselves. We might hope that our children will perpetuate a few memories of us and at least some of the values we might have lived by. Perhaps, even, on certain cold December evenings, they might entertain their own children with stories of how their grandparents were silly or crazy or (maybe once in a while) curiously wise. Somehow, that gives us a sense of immortality.

I really do not know how to deal with losing my son Mikah. A card from a sympathetic friend contains the line, “If my passing has left a void / Fill it now with remembered joy.” Indeed, Mikah’s passing has left a dark, gaping void. So, though I cannot remember without intense pain, I do fill my days with rememberings because it is all I am able to do. Deep in my subconscious, I suspect, is the desperate hope that, if only the pain is great enough, he might come back.

I remember of course some “highlights” with great pride -- like, for example, Mikah taking his school all the way through to the televised finals of the National Science Contest (for sixth-graders) or his being awarded an Oblation Scholarship by the University of the Philippines for obtaining the highest scores in the UPCAT (UP College Admission Test) or his graduating at Diliman with a degree in Applied Physics or his playing at events like the Fete de la Musique with his bands and at gigs where they’d launch their own CD albums.

Mostly, however, I remember clutching him to my chest when he was little and feeling his heart beat as he fell asleep, picking him up from school and holding his small hand in mine as we walked along school pathways to the car, having conversations with him (about anything) at the dinner table. I remember riding with Mikah in his car and listening to him point out the nuances of the music that was playing on the radio (“Count five beats, not four, Dad”), hearing him pound his drums and practice with his metal band at home as he started out on his fascinating musical journey, observing him frown at his computer as he worked out the logic on a complex piece of programming code. And, mostly, I remember the feeling of hugging him while saying, “See you later, Mikah,” every time he would walk out of our door.

Mikah gave us -- his mother Carmela, his sister Sarah, and me -- tremendous joy. We felt privileged to know from up close his rare combination of genius mind and compassionate heart. He seemed born with knowledge beyond his years. He was talking at eight months. As he grew, he read everything he could lay his hands on, processing stuff from science books to history tracts to fantasy novels into perceptive insights that filled his fabulous brain. Along the way, he acted as counsellor to his friends, financially helped less fortunate cousins, pampered his many dogs, and took in neglected rabbits.

Our own family’s loss is immeasurable. But Mikah’s passing is also society’s great loss because he represented -- in my admittedly biased view -- the best of his generation. He cared not for the frills, fluff, and fashions many are obsessed with today, nor for money and its associated pursuits of the trivial and the trifling. What he cared about passionately was playing his drums and creating original music that spoke to the soul. What he cared about was writing “elegant” code and creating software systems that were not only excellent but also beautiful. What he cared about was saving water and saving energy and preserving nature. What he cared about was exploring ideas and expanding his understanding of a multi-dimensional universe. What he cared about was that his sister, his friends, his pets, and his parents were always okay.

Immensely gifted as an artist and intellectual, there might have been a (slim) chance of Mikah influencing his generation through his music, although where that might have gone we can, sadly, no longer know. A non-believer (like me) in the fairy tales of organized religions but a subscriber to the notion that consciousness survives, Mikah penned wonderfully intelligent song lyrics that suggested the possibilities when one opens up one’s mind. In this eloquently evocative piece of poetry found in one of his songs, for example, he wrote:

Tear up the maps and walk past the edges
Out to the zones where monsters will be
They’re waiting to teach you the wisdom
you’re needing
So sit at their feet and learn how to see.

See you later, Mikah. The poet John Donne wrote, “Every man’s death diminishes me....” Yes. His mother, his sister, and I feel deeply and acutely the diminishment of Mikah’s passing. As do the friends and relatives whose lives he touched. As do a small band of admirers who heard him create innovative rhythms from his drums and who listened to his lyrics. I think the rest of our society would also feel diminished if they realized what we all lost in the passing of this wise and innately beautiful soul. They too would grieve.

1 comment:

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