Author Topic: Reflections: “Dying to Live” by Antonio Calipjo Go  (Read 11245 times)

Joe Carillo

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Reflections: “Dying to Live” by Antonio Calipjo Go
« on: April 25, 2023, 04:24:52 PM »
Reflections: “Dying to Live”
By Antonio Calipjo Go, Forum Contributor

I went to Baguio to visit the widow of a friend who passed away from this world recently. I wanted to see how she was coping with her husband’s death and also to return things I had borrowed from him in the course of our long years of friendship. I was unable to dissuade her from keeping me much longer in the house till I had partaken of the papaitan* that was her husband’s favorite, a dish that at this time became even more bitter owing to our shared sense of loss and regret. Her boy—my godson—presented to me the appearance of one who had gotten over the grief of losing his father, but there were tears in his eyes that he fiercely held back and hadn’t let fall.

I was able to leave only when the day had long ended and night had fallen like a dropped veil over the cold mountain city, the air blue and the city lights muffled by a brewing fog. I am not a man prone to weeping—it’s not my character to cry—yet before I knew it, a rain of grief was already falling hard inside my hollow heart, flooding it quickly.

                                   "EVENING LANDSCAPE WITH TWO MEN"    OIL IN CANVAS BY CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH (1774–1840)

Alone in my hotel room for a very long time, I finally noticed that in the east, the first red lights of dawn had burned a hole in the black vault of the night sky—a bleeding wound that gave me the strange feeling that I had stumbled upon an odd yet altogether familiar revelation—that morning follows night.

After that visit the days flew and fled before me like startled birds, the trees tossed and turned like lovesick lovers, their leaves falling to and fro. In those times I often found myself drinking black coffee, with only the graven gargoyles in my garden as companions, all, all of them grown gaunt and grey like me.

And yet I found consolation in the thought that the leaves that had torn loose from the trees and had fallen to the ground will become the humus that will nourish the mother tree whence they had come and then awaken to life the seeds that sleep beneath the soil. The birds, bats, and bugs that die pendulum down from the sky, falling down to the ground, are in turn turned posthaste into dust by Mother Earth’s army of decomposers to become part of the life-giving cosmic dust of the Universe.

When it’s time for them to spawn, mature salmon return to the very same stream where they were hatched, swimming thousands of miles from the oceans where they had grown, battering their way upriver over rapids and waterfalls. The female salmon, in turn, uses both tail and snout to dig the seedbed in the gravel bottom of the stream, after which she lays her eggs. The waiting male swims over them and fertilizes them with his milt.** The female then covers them with gravel. Both parent salmon die afterwards, having spent their lives for the outcome for which they were made.

Their young hatch and grow and, after a period of several months in fresh water, they go downriver to the sea. After four to seven years of roaming around the cold oceans of the world, they remember where they came from and seek out their freshwater birthplace and mate as their parents had done, completing the epic and heroic life cycle of their kind. The entire life of the salmon builds towards this climax and to this end, dying in order to give life to the next generation.

And so it must be that death is a pathway to life for all of us. We must pass through Lent to get to Easter, we must expire before we can be resurrected. Morning follows night. We live to die, and we die to live. A mobius band. The perfect circle.

Death is the end goal of life; this is why the clay that was Man was given the breath of life by God our Father. It is the purpose for why we were created—to return in the end to the stream where we were hatched, to meet our Maker, to see the lambent face of God.

No matter what time of the night it is, no matter how very cobalt blue that night had been for you, it’s always five in the morning somewhere else. A flower blooms, a baby is born, and someone finds a reason to smile and to be happy. I am becalmed by having these notions in my mind,  consoled by the thought that my good friend had simply gone ahead to swim in that atmospheric river in the sky, to await my coming at a future date, perhaps to have coffee with me at some small celestial wayside bistro before the gates of Paradise.

I smile at this impish thought that forms in the addled mind of this old man, then I pause, above the stridulation of the crickets and over the soughing of the wind in the bamboo grove, hoping to hear the silent voice of God.
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*Papaitan is a thick, hearty stew, consisting of goat and sometimes beef. This includes the animals' meat, innards, and bile.
**Milt is the sperm-containing fluid of a male fish.


Mr. Antonio Calipjo Go, retired academic supervisor of the Marian School of Quezon City, is an advocate of good English usage who has been waging a lonely crusade against badly written English-language textbooks in the Philippines for many years now. Several of his no-nonsense critiques and personal essays have appeared in the Forum over the years.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2023, 08:54:18 AM by Joe Carillo »