Three lessons from the potter’s field

I always approach the page afraid.

I am afraid that once I begin typing the words, I’d see my walls crumble. Then my words would reveal me. This blank page always asks too much, strips me down any cover until vulnerable.

But courage is a muscle, they say, and there’s no other way to know true bravery than treading fear’s terrain. I want to build courage. I want to be brave if it means exposing my deepest sorrows to quell–or even heal–the others’. I want the blank page to scare me and I to conquer it again and again. If not, what is this gift of words for?

Shall we talk about death?

Two days ago, we visited my mom’s “final resting place.” It felt odd to see her name etched in the gravestone. I read it over and over, undeniable of how incredulous I was. My mom’s gone. She’s not at home, she’s not in the car, she’s not even in the comfort room. I now live with the reality of her nonexistence–a world without her voice, skin, scent, and soon, things.

I, then, noticed the withering white roses that we brought her on our last visit. A hue of brown lined the petals’ edges, wrinkling them as it upends the rest of their velvety parts. It was like how time withered my mom’s body–how she went from the strong Mama to the feeble-as-a-newborn Mama. I thought, I will be no different. I, too, will wither. What must I do about it?

  1. Aim for what’s beyond earthly life. I looked around the cemetery and noticed the countless tombs concealed deep in its ground. Oddly, I felt not fear but an awe of how the place actually tells about a history that heaven and earth share, some sort of a middle ground. There writ are names of people who once passed this way called earth. The cemetery is an evidence of mortality and immortality, and of transience, how the body wilts to unveil the soul. Today, they all live beyond earth, bringing nothing but their souls.
  2. Be attuned to God. It’s beautiful how the cemetery is thatched with nothing but the vast sky. It is its roof, its endless dome that decides when to turn on or off its light. It is not under any human’s control. Its sight is like a sentence that reads: “I, human, must surrender to He who holds eternal life.” I wondered, am I attuned to my Creator–His will, His heart, His ways? How often do I speak to Him? And if it’s often enough, how much do I know this God I am talking to? And if I know Him deep enough, am I loving Him enough? I realized that humans are privileged to be connected to the Creator of the universe, to Him who abides with those who have long passed the earth, to Him who holds the light of the sky.
  3. Truly live. I stood before my mom’s gravestone, pondering on that symbolic dash between my mom’s date of birth and date of death. Then I found myself looking back at her life–the years I had with her and what I know about her childhood. Suddenly, everything zoomed out and I saw a top view of myself. Now, my mom’s life can only be defined by people she loved and who loved her, like me. She can no longer defend herself nor explain herself if someone thinks of her wrongly. She cannot write her story anymore or mend any twists or broken turns so her life would reach a better ending. Who my mom is for the world is now based solely on what everyone remembers of her. “Did she truly live?” I felt like I was asked, as if it all depends on me.

The task that mortality puts on our shoulders seems heavy, yet this is what makes each breath a gift. The more we know of the shortness of life, the more we seize each shedding time. Oh, the things to be grateful for are countless! And time is something we must thank God for eternity–time to align our goals to the heaven’s, time to know deeply our Creator, and time to truly live. Time to truly love.

And to answer, “Did Mama truly live?”

Hearken world, Mama truly loved.

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