Why does praise rain only after you’re gone? My sister wistfully asks as news spreads of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III’s passing.
I mulled upon this in the next few days.
Why, indeed, do we focus on what people do wrong during their lifetime yet give them credit for what they have done right only in their passing? All the moving eulogies we give to the ones we love when they’re no longer around.
It’s not because we didn’t know what they did right. It just seemed more satisfying to bring up what they did wrong while they lived. It’s interesting discourse to discuss societal flaws. But it’s fascinating conversation to identify the culprits.
By the mundane realities of life, we are spellbound. For the most part, we are enslaved by the need to fulfill an unending list of things to do that breeds frantic days and sleepless nights. No one and nothing can get in the way of the daily grind.
The spell breaks only when someone departs from your life. An abrupt resignation. A painful break-up. And sometimes, a devastating death. A loss so unimaginable, it haunts you for the rest of your life. Because nothing is more final than death.
Someone once asked me, “why do you always write like you’re going to die?” Because it’s only a matter of time. “Why do you write like you’re saying good-bye?” Because while I have no control over when and how I will die, while I still have control over my body and mind, I will take every chance to say good-bye.
Life isn’t black or white. Neither are people. Most of us try to live our lives the best way we can. And yet, despite our best efforts, we don’t always succeed. We fail. We disappoint. We hurt others.
Despite the best of our intentions, we don’t always do the right thing. We don’t always make decisions worthy of praise. We don’t always make choices we can be proud of. Because we are not always considerate, patient or kind. We are not always brave, strong or forgiving.
Much as we would like to, we don’t always bring joy to the people around us. Sometimes, in fact, we only bring pain. But we can work on becoming better and we can hope that at the end of the road to redemption, someone patiently waits.
Why do we rain praise on those who are gone? It’s not because we forget that in their lifetime, they messed up. It’s because we remember that despite our own missteps, they never stopped loving us.
By the myths of perfect lives, we are spellbound. Death breaks the spell. And suddenly, the permanent absence of the ones we love finally lifts the unjust obscurity of their unwavering presence in our lives.
We don’t have to wait for people to die. It takes courage, humility, magnanimity. But forever, we do not have to be spellbound.