Evolution of Death

Death is the epitome of life's paradox. It may hurt, it may free; it may be a source of strength, but fear of it may be one's Achilles heel; it takes away life and yet life will be of no value without it; it is an end but also a beginning.

Death was a symbol of greatness when I was 7 years old. We study martyrs, heroes, and saints at school. They were regular people while still alive. But after they died, books were written about them, statues were built in their honor, and they are presented as models that we should look up to. Back then, I thought that death was a requirement before one's greatness is recognized.

At 8 years old, I was convinced that death is only for good people. God takes away the pure in heart so that they will be with Him in heaven, where there is no sadness and pain. Jesus, Socrates, Lorenzo Ruiz, Ninoy Aquino, and Princess Diana - they all died. The TV was full of innocent people dying while criminals outlive them. I asked my father why this is the case. He said that God gives the "bad" chance to repent before He takes them. I remember telling myself to be "bad" for God not to take me yet.

It was when I was 10 years old that death transformed from a concept to a part of reality. I learned the pain of losing someone to death. My favorite aunt (AKA: the nicest, sweetest, most thoughtful person I knew) died of pneumonia. For the first time, I understood death. I cried buckets of tears because somehow the world was incomplete. Auntie Lisa cooks ginataan for us when we visit her. She narrates the tales of Pedro and Juan to make us sleep. She loves telling us about her childhood memories and encounters with aswangs in her hometown. No one would do those things for us anymore. She left a space that would be forever left unfilled. She's physically gone but the memories of her existence remain. It creates a longing to make things return to normal...a painful yearning impossible to satisfy.

Escape was the new form of death when I encountered it again 2 years later. My classmate's mom committed suicide to run from debts and possible bankruptcy. Our school offered a mass for Raymond's family and we tried to comfort Raymond although I know nothing we say could make him feel any better. I pity Raymond, his dad and two other brothers. His mom might have escaped earthly problems but his family had to cope with those challenges along with the pain of losing her. That's when I realized that suicide is a sweet escape but not a solution.

Then death became an element of stories I write. Fairy tale endings lost appeal. I learned that people remember what you've written when the protagonist dies because they say that the story feels real and relatable. I guess death is something that every individual understands because we all lost someone important at one point.

I stopped writing short stories in college and was exposed to political stories. Death takes so many forms in politics.

It was a source of entertainment in Ancient Rome as gladiators fight for their lives in amphitheaters. Parisian insurgents treated it as a necessary feat to abolish the Monarchic system they loathed during the French Revolution.  John Wilkes Booth devised death to end Abraham Lincoln's administration, which he likened to a tyranny. Adolf Hitler employed it as tool for racial hygiene in his pursuit of strengthening what he believed was the superior race.

It was the damage of World War II caused by the conflict of States' power aspirations and territorial expansions. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge use it to illicit fear and subservience to regress Cambodia to an agricultural society. The death of Konstantin Chernenko indirectly led to the collapse of the Soviet Union as Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded him. The death of over two thousand people in the 9/11 attacks was the US government's justification for launching the War on Terror and manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. For Arab revolutionaries, death is a risk they embrace to overthrow an oppressive government.

In different eras and civilizations, death is a recurring representation of man's struggle for power, and clash of political ideologies. Indeed, death, regardless of its cause or the form it takes, has immensely shaped political affairs and human life.

As I continue my search for understanding death, I came to accept it as a mechanism for maintaining balance in the world and giving significance to life. People die for the world to accommodate new life travelers and for them to appreciate the value of life. The occurrence of death is a manifestation that everything about the world is in constant state of change. I have no idea as to how death chooses its prey or who commands it. Religions propose varying explanations as philosophy does. But I guess we'll never know which of them is right or if they all got it wrong.

It's interesting how a common concept remains a mystery to all. No one has ever came back from afterlife (if there's even one) to tell us what happens at the brink of and after death. We are all clueless; we can assume and believe whatever we want but it is only until we reach that destination that we will profoundly understand death. As for me, I imagine that when I experience it myself, death will take me to a walk to recall the life I lived. Hopefully at the end of my life's flashback I would be able to say, "That was a worthwhile journey I had!"

P.S. In case you're wondering why I decided to post something about death, it's actually for my Aunt. It was her birthday last March 13 and I've been thinking about her a lot lately.

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