Monday, March 24, 2008

An Ode

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It's very rare that you encounter something that can be both poetic and powerful at the same time these days. Sometimes, you think all the miracles had been exhausted during the earlier centuries of history, and that we were stuck here, left to fend for ourselves. Sometimes, you end up thinking that maybe there really isn't anybody up there watching over us, or if there were, the dude was doing more watching than caring. Sad as it may seem, the outlook of majority of today's people goes a little something like this: we're alone in the world, so we have to look out for our own. I'm hardly at my quarter life, and I tend to see things in this light (which is, admittedly, kinda sad). It's like a defense mechanism generated by people living in a world that's become run by fast-paced businesses that require sufficient sacrifice of the self in order to survive.

The other day, though, something happened that helpd bolster my belief that somewhere out there, a holistic order of things that keeps tabs with what we're doing.

One of my family's oldest friends is this unassuming little man named Jose De Luna. When I say little, I mean little - while he wasn't shorter than your average man, he was pencil-thin, mostly due to the hardships life had dealt him with. But despite that, he managed to stay cheerful and happy despite the fact that for the longest time, his line of work was reminiscent of Charon on the river Styx, the chauffeur of the dead, a decidedly morose line of work, lonely, for the most part, because dead men tell no tales, and dreary because death is a significant sign of an ending.

One thing about the man: he was one of the most diligent workers I've ever seen. Joe wasn't someone who'd complain easily, no matter what the situation. He could be working round the clock - especially in his last job as the mortuary owner's personal chauffeur - only to come home to a wife who only cared about his money, and he would remain steadfast. He'd argue with his wife long and often, but while other people would have long gone and jumped ship out of frustration, Joe would lovingly talk it out with the woman, caring for her to the very end, with very little regard for himself.

Joe was also a very good friend of my grandmother. The man helped out my family throughout all the deaths we went through, and when my grandmother passed away, he personally undertook the procedure of her internment, making sure that her body was seamlessly and speedily shipped from the house to the mortuary to be prepared, and to the local chapel to lie in state, all of which took place in the span of a single day. He was, in every sense of the word, industrious to a point, and despite all of his other shortcomings as an individual, he was one of the closest examples of nobility I have ever seen.

He lived the simple life and loved it even though he had to live with a lot of problems that would have brought down other "stronger" people. Joe was the most normal individual you'd ever get to meet, but in his complacent existence, there was something magical and hero-like, something that the world hasn't seen for centuries, the kind of goodness that you'd see in kindly-faced janitors or security guards who'd go out of their way to make your day a little bit easier, or in barbers that would give you a complementary backrub after your haircut. There was, in him, the most eager, honest, and fierce devotion to service without limits, service without a second thought.

It was that drive that made small, simple Joe a special individual.

Joe De Luna passed away in a poetic and rather poignant manner last Easter Sunday, the Roman Catholic celebration of the Lord's resurrection. He had been suffering from stage IV cancer, and had been given a few months to live. The man could have died at any time, and yet his life finally gave out on the very day the Lord vanquished death.

Say what you will about the reason behind the celebration; the symbolism isn't lost to me.

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