“Who Am I?” is a song written by Casting Crowns, a Christian rock band and it’s been ringing in my ears for a day now. In web slang, it’s LSS, or my ‘last song syndrome.’ And I am humming it in my mind as a tribute to a friend who’s counting down her time, and ‘hap-sadly’ will soon have to go home to her Maker.
We wait for the pandesal vendor in his bike at the crack of dawn, an ear tuned to the loud blasts of the horn he toys around as he zooms past our house if we’re not keen and fast enough to flag him down, while the other ear waits for the kettle to whistle and stands by to catch the morning news on air, too.
We wait for the kids to wake up while we keep an eye on the egg we’re frying in the pan and the rice in the cooker. We wait for them for breakfast, only to be met with that oh-no-not-scrambled-egg-again look. And so we wait some more until they make their bread with egg, and take a bite. We wait again by the door to send them off to school.
Then the washing machine beeps to alert us the first batch is done and ready for hanging. Only to be jolted by the ascending ticking of the wall clock, like it’s going to explode any moment, reminding us that it’s synchronized prayer time for our dying friend in the other side of the world.
We wait for a thousand and one things everyday to get done with the same amount of time in short hour-segments compelling us to use or waste it. There’s no time to lose. We hold the same number of time-chips everyday, 24 in all. It hasn’t changed a bit. Only the rate that we use up our chips seems to be way faster than we remember. Talk about inflation in the economics of living on borrowed time.
Hence, dealing with news about someone dying makes us stop in our tracks of this circular living-waiting routine.
We notice the bird stopping briefly by the window. Looking outside, there’s a nest beautifully crafted and snugly perched on a small branch of the calamondin tree. Two tiny dotted eggs of the sparrow wait their time there, while the mother bird incubates, but flies off at the slightest sound, waiting for clearance to nest back.
The avocado tree next catches the eye. Only a number of fruits in varying sizes await maturing and picking. A few months back, the tree was suffused with tiny blossoms, but obviously most of the flowers did not make it.
An overripe sweetsop (atis), or what remains of it, lie hanging by a twig, evidently remnants of a feast of a band of sparrows maybe that beat us to it. The fishpond below is stagnantly green and polluted, only a few egrets can be seen, perhaps feeling lucky for a small catch or two.
Looking up, clouds drift by fast, the rhythmic movement in sync with the hands of the clock ticking. We are reminded about the changing season around the world at this time of year. Seasons make us wait, too. We go about our daily grind even if we have to deal with the extremities of the weather lately, awaiting with anticipation the cooler days of the wet season here and the merry days of spring-to-summer in the western hemisphere. Even calendared seasons act a little haywire, making us wait more anxiously for better days.
With the anxiety and uncertainty that usually accompany the waiting game, we probably miss a lot of things that we hope to see. The eggs in the nest that we missed seeing hatching. The sweetsop that we missed picking. The avocados that are few and far between, we have to strain our necks and search for them among the leaves and branches.
But even if we don’t see, we know they are there. We are so used to waiting we do not realize we are constantly doing that. In the same breadth that we are used to living, breathing, moving, eating, coming, going, talking, shouting, loving, hating — we do not realize how much of our life we are taking for granted.
Until someone reminds us about dying. Today, we realize we die only once.
We go through a thousand tiny deaths maybe, through all the frustrations and failures we badly deal in life everyday. But the physical dying happens only once, making us realize what the real point of all the waiting is — to prepare for this all-important event.
The real fruit in all the waiting is not of this world.