Scribbled on 05 January 2014 in Naga City.
I am running again. Bro and I checked out a new place today. I was reluctant at first to run in a cemetery. Wouldn’t it have been disrespectful, morbid even? But as soon as I saw the quiet, open space, my hesitation fled.
The graveyard looked new. A wide patch of the lawn enclosed by a paved road was still empty–that is, not taken up yet by the dead. On the side of the road, small concrete ‘apartments’ housed deceased families, that word ‘Estate’ ended each clan’s name. One of the structures looked like the inside of a posh club, with glass panels and high, silver stools waiting for the bartender. There was air-conditioning to ensure the comfort of guests. I thought it cool that such a place looked alive rather than somber. Perhaps the people buried there loved the night life, and they wanted to be remembered that way by the people who loved them.
Remembrance, that surrounded most of the graves I passed by as I ran. Remembrance and goodness, engraved forever in the epitaphs of those who passed before me and all who got up early to brave the chilly morning.
Inside the small chapel at the cemetery’s entrance, a wake was being held for a father and his two children. They died on New Year’s Eve–held hostage and shot by another family member–his son, their brother. Suffering from depression and drug addiction, he took his own life as his family lay dead before him. His body was not among those in the wake.
How will people remember Anthony Zepeda? What will be written on his grave? Will what remain of his family bury him in the same estate as those he had killed? How can one life, and not the other, be entombed in despair?
I have an idea of what it is like to feel that way, though probably not in the same proportion as Anthony did. A small part of me runs to keep those monstrous thoughts at bay.
A few meters from the wake stands the stone bust of my hometown’s hero, the man who turned the city into a progressive business and education center in Bicol. There is no ‘apartment’ for his final resting place, no epitaph to pay tribute to all the good he did as a public servant. In death as in life, a quiet conviction and simplicity are his companions. There is only that ‘a great leader’ banner over his grave, maybe placed there by one of his admirers. And there is that autograph over a life well-lived.
He was tall in the bed and I could see the silver through his eyelids. His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do–the best ones. The ones who rise up and say, ‘I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.’ Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places. This one was sent out by the breath of an accordion, the odd taste of champagne in summer, and the art of promise-keeping. He lay in my arms and rested. (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak)