When someone we love dies, he takes a piece of our heart with him in his grave, leaving us incomplete and marred. And no matter how many years would pass, the space in our heart where that piece once was will always be empty.
One of my students, Macky, died today and his death broke me.
Macky was more than just a student. He was an excellent lay out artist, a cartoonist, a comic artist, a story teller, a film maker all rolled into one package – a young guy in black shirt, printed backpack and fashionable shoes. He could turn ordinary settings to appealing frenzied scenes, seemingly impossible plans to great and memorable realities. I have been with Macky for three years. I have seen him work on our school’s official publication and toil for one event I have always dreamt of organizing; I have watched him talk in a series of workshops I have organized. I have listened to his rants and melancholic stories about his sister. And I will never see him do these things ever again. That is painful. Unnerving.
Macky didn’t know this, but I was a fan of all his undertakings. One of my roles in his life as his teacher was to inspire him. But Macky, with all his glittering ideas and admirable dedication moved me, humbled me and inspired me to become better in my own craft.
I have been trying to contemplate his death the whole day – why it happened, why him. But all I can come down to is the truth that his death is like a bowl of overly bitter ampalaya I can never bring myself to chew and swallow. All deaths they say are sudden and surprising. But in my eyes, his death wasn’t anything like that.
He had been sick for a month, had been in and out of the hospital for weeks, had been dealing with his on and off fever and had been diagnosed with an illness which according to the doctor, would lead to death if uncured. Macky had been losing weight. That was why we have been worried about him. His classmates and closest friends would pay him a visit at the hospital. And for several nights, I too, prayed for him. Death was just at the door, getting ready to knock, but Macky, his family and everyone who knows him including me shun that thought.
His death didn’t surprise me, it paralyzed me. After hearing about his death, I just stayed in my bed and hid under the blanket. I refused to call some of his classmates. I refused to offer them comfort. How can I now do for others something that I couldn’t do for myself? The news about his death has never left me. I started imagining about the days that will come after today – when I would already have to go to school and I won’t be able to talk to him again or see him sitting among his classmates while listening to my lecture. How can I facilitate the production and publication of our school paper without remembering him? How can I organize another film festival without yearning for his presence?
I was his teacher. And even using the verb “was” now while talking about him crushes my heart. He was supposed to learn from me and take lessons from me, but what he took was a piece of my heart that can never be replaced or replicated.
Death doesn’t only take away the people we love. It takes a piece of our life, our heart, ourselves. That’s what I hate about death. I may be able to meet another student whose qualities and interests would be similar to Macky’s in the future. But there will be no another Macky. He is a photo in an album I would always look at and a story I will always talk about whether I want to or otherwise.