Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saving the Best for Last

My sister in law has this habit to reserve the best part of the food as her last bite as if the joy of her meal is in the last bite. One time, my parent in laws hosted a dinner to treat their balik-bayan relatives who just came in from Australia. On that dinner, my sister-in law got what she believed was the best part of the meal and she took a medium size shrimp and put it on her plate. She carefully removed the shells of the shrimp taking care not to lose precious part of the shrimp that can go together with the shell. With all its dexterity, the ritual is over and she set aside the peeled off shrimp beside her dinner plate.

When the dinner was about to end and it was time to pay the bill, my son saw the peeled off shrimp near her aunt’s plate. Thinking that her aunt no longer wanted to eat that food, he tweaked the shrimp from the plate and PRESTO! the shrimp was gone in seconds. My sister-in law was so furious and berated her nephew by saying, “di mo ba alam itinitira ko yun para sa huling subo? (don’t you know I reserved it for my last bite?). Everybody was laughing leaving my sister in law disgusted.

The Test of Life
Year 2006 when we experienced life’s most difficult test. I quit my lucrative job in the semiconductor industry because of personal indifferences with my boss and settled for another job that pays me relatively lesser than what I used to received. With the kind of lifestyle we used to have, we find ourselves in the difficult part of life-style transition. Gone are the days of my family’s usual weekend break outside Manila. The countless Friday dinner dates with my wife and the Sunday treats for the entire family were all lost in an instant, together with my pride and self-esteem.

My new job then in the Fashion Retail Industry is to manage nationwide distribution of men’s apparel in all leading Department Stores in the Philippines. Daily, I have to leave home early and arrived home wasted from a daily grind of 12 hours work including holidays because these were the peak season for the company’s business. The situation was further complicated because the job demands time more than what I can give to my self and my family. Endless nights I couldn’t sleep trying to figure out the future of my family. I didn’t even know how it was like to spend time with your kids. My health succumbed to the pressure of stressful work and decided to leave my job and settled for small business at home. The business though profitable didn’t provide enough for my family’s needs and we were facing then the toughest question whether if we can still afford our children’s education. Going abroad for me is a bitter pill to swallow, but that time; I knew we never had good options left.

New Hope
Year 2007 when I packed my suitcase armed with hope of giving better future for my family. I left Philippines for abroad leaving a wife, a son and 3 daughters. By chance, we managed to exchange communications and my wife makes sure to update me every time even the smallest and trivial things that are happening. Our life improves a bit and we were slowly picking up fragments of our broken dreams. “This is the kind of break I need”, I told myself.

The Tragedy
A month before Christmas I was busy filling up and checking the list if my balik-bayan box was complete with all the stuffs that should be there. I prepared this ahead because I want to give nothing but the best stuff for my family. Goodies, toys, shoes, perfumes and clothes were all perfectly selected based on my kid’s preference. My daughter keeps on asking me, “Daddy, kailan mo papadala yung yung gift mo sa akin?” “Malapit na, basta bago mag Pasko” I replied. “This time I’m sure they all gonna’ like it because these are the best” Saving the best for last? Maybe.

Days past and Christmas is just around the corner, almost a week had past but I never received any SMS from my wife or my daughter. Though quite unusual but I thought they were just busy. Sunday morning came, I sent an SMS message to my wife asking her if they went to hear a mass but still got no reply from her. That Sunday proved to be the most difficult test of my life. My wife and my 3 daughters ages 2, 7 and 12 got involved in a vehicular accident. The passenger jeepney they were riding was hit by a wayward truck while they were crossing the intersection of San Andres and South Super Hi-way. Miraculously, my 2 younger daughters were unharmed for they were cushioned by files of bodies over them who absorbed the impact of the crush. My eldest daughter was thrown outside the vehicle because of the impact of the collision but managed to escape with a little bruise. Good thing there were no approaching vehicle at the time of the accident. However, the young lady beside her was badly hurt and her leg was later amputated due to the severity of the injury. The other person beside her was not that lucky, she died on her way to the hospital. My wife absorbed the most injury what could have been for my children and survived the accident after having been in the hospital for about a week and recuperated at home a month after the accident.

Saving the Best for Last?
When the news was finally relayed to me, I was in the office and I couldn’t remember if I cried. All I know, I was dumbfounded; motion less and I don’t know how I would react. I realized that everything you saved, everything you hoped for and everybody you care for can vanish with a single instance. When I came back to my room I saw the balik-bayan box in one corner, carefully packed with a name and address of the intended recipient written outside the box. I opened the box and saw how the stuffs were carefully and neatly arranged inside but almost could be rendered nearly worthless by that accident.

My Spiritual Learning Curve
That accident had opened my eyes on the deeper understanding of life. Our desire to have or achieve the best of everything out of this world defines the kind of life that most of us is creating in the process, hence neglecting the very purpose of our life.
We enslave ourselves to work, neglecting our part at home. Forgetting about to visit your mother on her birthday or getting it hard to remember even your wedding anniversary. Having missed your son’s school graduation because you will be attending a business conference abroad. You can’t talk longer on the phone with your daughter asking you to come on her confirmation day because you a deadline to meet or your boss is calling you to his office. Lest to miss your flight to attend a provincial business conference, you forgot to kiss your wife and children on your way out. Are you slave of your own career for the fear of missing the promotion that you are aiming so dearly sacrificing the very same family we pledged to give undivided attention? This selfish desire is often disguise as “For the sake of my family”. How many times have you made a self-justification that your dream of going up the corporate ladder is for the sake of your family? Don’t you know that if you die tomorrow, the company that you pledged your loyalty can replace you instantly, but the family we often neglected will be the only one left crying in our grave?

Mathew 6: 19-21 explain the awful consequence of man’s foolish priority of keeping wealth that can be lost and tarnish and not even a single piece of it can be taken with him at the time of his death. What profits a man if he gains the best thing in this world but loses his soul?

Perhaps the best question we may ask ourselves, Are we saving the best for our next life?

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