Today, we serve a little philosophy, buttered with personal history and the unavoidable of all wonderment: “why do I exist?
In the interest of full disclosure, the philosophy part of this story is from Fr. James V. Schall’s book, “Catholicism ad Intelligence,” while the “personal history” part need not be explained.
First the philosophy questions imagined
Ana Marie (+), if she was at all able, would have asked me or her Mom this question: “Why was I even born, Dad, and in two days, only to die? Why?”
And if indeed I was able to converse with her this way , I would have told her: “You were born, Ana, because of the relationship that Mom and I have with each other.”
I could then continue, ” The fact that you are able to think this way makes me conclude that “Ana, indeed, you are (still) very much in existence…but where?”
“As your father, Ana, I think and do imagine you to be in the happiest place that anyone I love should be or can be, where I have wanted all along for you to be in , though you never heard me say it to you.”
“First of all, you were never born for yourself alone, but for another, or in your case, for The Other.”
“Why, Dad?” you ask, who is The Other?”
“Well, The Other is the One who Freely brought you into this world.”
“But what about you and Mom, Dad? Were’nt you the ones who brought me into this world?”
“Yes, Ana, we were the ones, but The One who gave you the spirit of life, who gave you the spirit to ask and to know and to be alive, and who brought you into existence was not us, but The One who caused your existence.”
“But how do you know this, Dad?”
“Well, I know and I believe this Ana, not because I and your Mom are smart, but because God, in the inspired writings, “revealed,” this truth of our faith to us.”
“You see, Ana, your Mom and I believe in Jesus, and we believe that because you had been baptized, in water and in the Holy Spirit, that you now truly abide with God in heaven.”
Now, the personal history part.
It is sometimes in our own “houses,” that we experience, for lack of a better word, “the presence of angels.”
In 1967 Cagayan de Oro my wife Lita and I lived in a postwar, three-bedroom, colonial type, two-storey lime -green colored wooden house, that used to be owned by the family of Peggy Paradies Barker, a coed in Ateneo de Cagayan.
She is shown here in photo below, behind and on the upper right of Nene Pimentel ( then Student Council president) before the Ateneo became Xavier University with Fr. Francisco Araneta, SJ as its rector.
To Fr Araneta’s left I can recognize Jose Balaba, Baging Arguelles, Anita Villarin, and to his right, Nene Pimentel, Bobo Hamoy, Mila Salcedo, Marie Larrabaster, and standing in the back are Buddy Joaquin, Nestor Torre, Jr. Orlando Neri, Chiqui Ubago, and Manny Valdehuesa. In the intermediate row are Peggy Barker, Paching Montalvan and Loreta Capistrano.
This photo ( ca 1959) depicts the studentry “creme de la creme” of the 1960 Ateneo de Cagayan.
This Barker house ( one of the houses in my life) was purchased in 1964 by Virgilio Cebrero, Lita’s dad, through the brokering help of Fr. Cicero Cebrero, SJ, her uncle, which house ( now gone) sat on a 1000 square meter lot, in the corner of Tomas Saco and 18th Street, with a mango tree on the west side and two small or dwarfish “golden coco trees in the front.
Joe Balaba and his family lived a few houses west of us, near the house of Atty. Alas and our neighbor on the other side was Mr. Facelo of Del Monte.
Source: Family of Jose Balaba(+)
Well, it was in this house, where our first born, Ana Marie lived a brief two days, and then hurriedly baptized in the night, before she left us to be with God in heaven.
For when our pediatrician informed me of the seriousness of her “blue-baby syndrome,” I went to Fr Ocampo at St. Augustine Cathedral so our baby could be baptized, and he came to baptize her, before she expired.
Fr. Cebrero arranged the details of the burial, paid for the “nicho,” etc. and on the same day, as my wife was still in recovery in the hospital bed, our little “angel,” was interred.
It was Fr. Cebrero who blest her with the final blessing, she who was peacefully “asleep” in that little, gray wooden casket, garbed still in her white baptismal dress, a gift from Tita Chita, that dress that was a symbol of our belief that our baby has “put on Christ,” and has now become, by the sacrament of baptism, truly a child of God, by water and by the power of the Holy Spirit, through Christ.
Events like these have a way of ingraining themselves deep in one’s sub-consciousness.
For back then, in that matter-of -fact life and death moment, I simply was unable to find neither the tears nor the grief as I performed a father’s duty of laying a daughter to earth, putting our “little angel,” to rest.
Our own child, so comfortable and peacefully asleep in that small, gray wooden box was to never know the greatest gift that God gives to his creatures on earth: to “love and be loved in return.”
But no matter: for now she is with God where Love is in fullest bloom. The truth is, she can love God, because God loved her first (1 John 4:19)
Though in that finality moment, I did not realize that my personal pain was deep and profound.
But eventually the gravity of this “little death,” full and final, was to come home to me four decades later, during the celebration of what we call “Father’s Day.”
For when I casually asked my wife, ” how old do you think Ana Marie would be today if she were still alive?” I could not, in that instant, understand why our”angel” became to me and to my mind, so vividly real as a grown woman of forty, an age a year older than the present age of the sibling who came after her, the sister who took her place as eldest of our children.
This vivid vision brought uncontrolled sobbing and copious tears to last long minutes.
“Ed,” my wife said, “Your daughter Ana Marie has just greeted you a ‘Happy Father’s’ day”
Tis’ said that visions can be very rare experiences and I would agree, but I also am of the belief that when a transcendental moment as when a soul is greeted by God in heaven, as we think happened on that fateful evening baptism of Ana Marie prior to her death, that mysteriously, when a soul finds fullness with The Lord, that somehow or other, kindred souls could “catch a glimpse” of this, mothers and fathers included.
There is a song by Eric Clapton, asking his tragically departed, toddler son, “would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?”
Well, me and my wife never spoke with our child, and Lita never saw her more than the few minutes after her birth, but we believe and we are sure, that when we finally meet in heaven, that she, our Ana Marie, would know our names.
So why do we exist? Why did Ana exist? “I exist to participate in eternal life, the inner life of God. Each human life has, as the end offered to it, “eternal life”
So the question, “Why do I exist?” have two answers.
One, that we are to know all that is.
Second, that we are, if we choose it by the way we live and think, to be given eternal life.” (Schall)
Both are possible to us.
It is in the passage from John in which we are told that ” the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us,” in this briefest of sentences, that we have everything put together, and the unavoidable wonderment of our our existence, explained.
Meaning, that because we have been loved first, that we must love in return. This, in short, is the reason for our existence. “Because God so loved the world…”
In Eliot’s poignant words,” the most unsettling thing about us in this life is that it is the satisfied loves, beginning in the flesh, that most beckons us to the reality of what transcends us.” (Schall, page 15)
With these words therefore, we are able to conclude, that when our Ana, sprung from our loins, to begin her briefest of life in the flesh, but then to be taken from us that night, that it must have been for a reason, a purpose, nay, place or a reality that “transcends us,” all.
And what could that transcendental place be, pray tell me, but heaven?
Thank you for sharing this dad, an experience we never would have known. While we never really met our eldest sisterAna Marie, or could have, she died in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus through the Sacrament of Baptism, a gift you gave her before she went to heaven. Your sharing was both philosophical and deeply spiritual. An attempt to understand the mind and heart of God and why Ana Marie really had only two short days in this world. Quite a mystery. And a blessing, to have a life on this earth with our eldest sister always with us in spirit, truly present, to and with all of her 7 siblings, from the time we were born to the time we had our own families. A reality which you have reminded us with your sharing. We love you Ana Marie, we always will.
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Thank you Susan, for remembering your dear departed elder sister, Ana Marie. We believe that she looks after all her siblings and her parents, as angels should and do. Blessings to you, to Bobby and your children
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