AS A newly tenured Associate Professor of U.P, with an East-West fellowship in the offing, I received word from my eldest brother in the Fall of 1976, to leave ASAP for Canada. He advised me to take my Ph.D. in Toronto, where I could be with our father who had only six months to live because of terminal cancer.
I gave up my plan for grad studies in the U.S. and applied for Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Toronto, Autumn of 1976, about the time my father decided to check out of the hospital, tired of his cancer treatment. It was a trying time for me --I had to prove myself to a British-oriented University that rated Philippine education below par their standard. It helped that I had a list of publications in my name that served as 'passport' to being admitted as a "Special Graduate Student", one that came with the promise of an M.A. and promotion as a doctoral student if I pass the Comprehensive Exam.
Barely six months, in February 1977, my father died early dawn. Though I went through the stages of dying with him--from denial through final acceptance as he asked me to have him buried beside his mother's tomb, I did not expect him to go so soon. Pressed with readings and essays to write, I evaded longing looks in his eyes for more chats. My goal was to pass the "Comps" in February, and then I will find time for him. Being the youngest, he considered me closest to him. I was the one who actually dared tell him the truth--that he had only a few months left, and had to set his relationship right with God. He didn't get to say his farewell and passed away before I got to take the Comprehensive Exams. This painful episode came to mind when I came across the Last Farewell Letter of Nobel Prize Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Colombia’s illustrious Novelist declared his retirement from public life because of terminal cancer and sent this letter of farewell:
If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.
I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say.
I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.
I would sleep little, I would dream more because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.
I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.
If God would give me a little bit more of life...I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body but my soul naked at its mercy.
To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.
I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves.
To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness...
I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the hill...I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down on another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.
Say always what you feel, not what you think...
If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say “I love you.”
Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.
Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them “I am sorry,” “forgive me, “please,” “thank you,” and all those loving words you know.
Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them.
Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.
Alas, Daddy did not get to write a Farewell Letter, and I never got to converse with him longer than the Autumn days of 1976.
January 06, 2021
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