I have just received news that one of my batch mates from high school has passed on.
Truth be told, I never knew Andy past the usual courteous pleasantries we afforded each other as passengers in the ride called elementary and high school. We were classmates for 2 years (5th and 6th grade), then batch mates all through out high school.
You could say we were not exactly emotionally invested in each other's lives. But the news of his death hit me like a speeding bus at 100 kph running smack into my face.
Hard. Cold. Numb.
What do I remember? He had a high pitched laugh, that much I know. I always thought it odd for someone who was tall - anyone taller than me is automatically tall in my book - but odd in a positive, unexpected, disarming way. And I don't ever remember seeing him frown or get angry. Looking at the notes and messages that are being posted in social media, my memory of him seems to be confirmed: Classmates both here and abroad remember him most for the joy and laughter he had and brought, as well as the kindness he showed.
Pictures of him in Facebook suggested a preoccupation with the word fun - if only most of us would do that, I think we would have a better quality of life. And I look at the barkada (circle of friends) that he has been known to be with since our formative school years - a testament to the power of friendships formed during a time when there were no serious obligations other than getting through the "terror" of a teacher in a class made bearable by the knowing glances of everyone "suffering", no bills mounting up to pay, not really paying attention to any health concerns as this was when we were younger, a time when we all feel invincible and indestructible.
His later snapshots were of him in a hospital bed, hair shaven off. There were well wishers who sent their hopes of him getting full recovery from a condition I was never privy too. I silently sent him my well wishes as well because I thought I was not really a significant person in his life to publicly announce these. But it brought home the one fact we eventually learn, one way or another, despite our collective attempts as a species to thwart it.
Time passes. Reality sets in. We get older, fatter, balder - all the things we used to despise and laugh at when we were younger have now become our present.
No one escapes death. It is just a matter of when, a matter of how.
We have hopefully become wiser - wiser to the ways of the world, a world we thought was black and white but is really in permutations and shades of charcoal, silver and grays.
We have hopefully become more accepting - of each other's ways, idiosyncracies, beliefs, and even our faults and weaknesses, as we realize that to be human is to accept that we will fail over and over again in many varied ways, and that what counts is the we pick ourselves up after each fall.
And most of all, we have hopefully tried our best to leave this world a little better than when we entered it - paving the way for our children, our grandchildren, and those after them, to live much better lives than we ever could in our own lifetime; and if, by some dint of hard work, luck or circumstance, we were able to love and return that love to those who gave it to us, we should count ourselves fortunate enough to know what it means to be fully human.
While our brains give our existence the means to have structure and order, it is our heart that invigorates it with life and warmth.
And to those Andy left behind and touched in ways both personal and surprising, may we be comforted by the fact that he will live on in our memories.
Thank you for reminding me, and all of us, that what binds us all together - truly binds us - is our shared humanity and mortality, and that we are all so much more alike than we are different.
Here's to you, Andy.