WE were in the newsroom library and you were praising me for my writing. I was a budding journalist, and hungry for validation.
“Kung mamatay ko Reb, ha, ikaw unya suwat sa akong obituary (When I die, Reb, I’d like you to write my obituary),” you said, all smiles.
I laughed shyly. What a joke. It was a morbid way to tell someone how pleased you were with his work. For all I know, you said the same thing to other reporters you wished to inspire. Nonetheless, your expression of approval seeped deeply into my consciousness.
You motivated me to scour the streets for people with fascinating stories. You made me believe in myself. You made me happy. And even after I left the newsroom, you still took the time to let me know how much you loved my work. Your thoughtfulness gave me relief at a time when my heart was filled with fear.
I know I caused you occasional disappointments later in our working relationship. I know at some point you felt I was not giving my best. But you showed me nothing but patience. I try my hardest to remember you giving me a straight face, but all my memories of our interactions show you looking at me with your ever sweet smile.
That smile was missing when I finally saw you two years after I left the newsroom. You were in a hospital bed, your lips curled around a tube, your eyes oblivious to my presence. I wished I saw you smiling then. I wished I had thanked you more seriously - not in my usual sheepish way of thanking you - for the kindness you showed me.
I wished I had paid you a visit earlier. Not in a hospital room. But in the newsroom, in that vibrant place where you helped nurture me as a writer and as a person.
I never thought I would ever recall the time you told me that morbid joke. That memory had been lying dormant in the deep recesses of my brain, until I learned how bad your situation in the hospital was. Even then, I prayed that nobody would have to write your obituary for many, many years to come.
Miss Ging, this is not an obituary. This is all I can write, a simple note about how much you mean to me.
I’m not saying goodbye. Leave the world if you must. But you live on in me and in all other people who will never, ever forget that sweet smile.