It is not in the right order of things that a father delivers a eulogy at the funeral of his own son. It is the son who should be present at the funeral of his father.
But my wife Baby tells me that our family is twice blessed. We now have two angels in heaven—our eldest son Raymond, who died shortly after birth, and, now, Adrian.
Two angels, because Raymond died after birth and was without sin, and Adrian became a daily communicant before his death and received the last sacraments or extreme unction three times.
Incidentally, the name of Adrian’s loyal caregiver who served him daily until his death is also Raymond.
And so my wife Baby tells me that Adrian, who loves cars, went to heaven in a Rolls Royce. Indeed, he finally went to sleep and woke up in heaven.
Because I was already over 50 years old when our youngest son Josemaria was born, I told Adrian, who was 14 years older, to be a father to Jose just in case something happened to me.
Adrian asked me how he could do the job. So, I simply told him the story of Sen. Adlai Stevenson, who became a US Presidential candidate. Adlai had an only brother and no sisters. One summer, on a hunting trip, Adlai accidentally shot his younger brother. He was so distraught and crying all the time that he could not focus on his studies anymore—until his father told him that the only way he could make up for it was by living for two.
And so, living for two, Adlai Stevenson eventually became a great intellectual and a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
Live for two
When Adrian was in serious condition in the hospital, Josemaria took a leave from his work at First Gen and sacrificed a trip to Chile to be able to stay with Adrian most of the time. And when Adrian died, Josemaria came to me and told me that he was going to live for two.
What I’d like to tell you is the story of a gallant fight for life against the most hopeless medical odds, that should convey a message to anybody who faces everyday the horror of an aggressive, incurable kind of cancer.
When Adrian was diagnosed with cancer, he was already at Stage III-D. The tumor was so large that they had to remove 70 percent of his colon, such that the remaining 30 percent could no longer be joined, and they had to be connected to the small intestines. The operation was so tedious, it lasted 11 hours.
Unfortunately, a year and a half after the first operation, another tumor had grown, and another 10-hour operation was undertaken to remove the second tumor. Though the operation was successful, in less than three months, another cancerous tumor grew so fast that it savaged his remaining colon, then the small intestines, and, eventually, the stomach. This time, Adrian was too weak to be subjected to a third operation.
Adrian made all final decisions in consultation with his doctors and the family.
As you all know, Adrian was a very bright and gentle person. But I never thought he had so much courage. He became fascinated with his own illness, the techniques of the doctors, their chemo recipe, and their knives for operating.
He was valedictorian from grade school to high school at Southridge. He was magna cum laude at Duke University and graduated No. 2 from the Columbia University law school, a Justice Harlan Stone Fiske Scholar.
He insisted on reading all the surgical and biopsy reports, as well as the CT and PET scan. He helped the doctors in the most active manner and regarded himself as an attending physician to his own body. He kept a black book where he recorded every medical detail and opinions of his seven doctors.
All the doctors came to respect him because he could help them recall the previous medical procedures and medicine or chemo used on him, up to the last gram. All the nurses came to love him because there was never a word of unreasonable protest.
Instead, he worried about his mother’s health and mine, that we were paying so much for the medical expenses here and abroad, that he was taking a lot of my time from my work in Manila and Iloilo, and that should he live long under these conditions, it would be unfair to his siblings.
That is why he desperately wanted to live.
Meanwhile, my wife Baby created so many opportunities for him to make confessions, receive daily communion, and, of course, have the last rites. His last extreme unction was administered to him by Fr. Renal, and he told me that these sacraments really made him strong. “Really good, Dad.” I jokingly asked him, was it better than his reflexology or the foot massage? Up to four days before his death, Adrian did not lose his wit and humor.
In his diary, he wrote in Latin and in English: “I begged what the penitent thief begged.” He also quotes Martin Heidegger on the inevitability of death, Jean Paul Sartre on the existence of the afterlife, and José Rizal on continuing to grow in love as much as possible in the time left.
In the last few months of his life, when he was totally on a life support system and could not eat anymore, I would have breakfast with him everyday. While he could not eat, he loved the smell of a good cup of coffee and freshly toasted bread. But he could eat taho.
It was during one of these breakfasts on the seventh floor of St. Luke’s that we would talk of life and death.
He told me that he had difficulty comprehending his transition from this world to the next. And I told him that life here is nothing and isn’t worth anything, and certainly the next world would be kinder and gentler. And he smiled at me and said jokingly: “Dad, would you like to exchange places with me?”
But I had a ready answer. I told him: “Son, you don’t know it, but everyday I try to bargain with the Lord. I tell the Lord that, since I am now old at 81, he should let me die and let my son Adrian live.”
Dust thou art
On another breakfast morning, we both recalled the poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which goes this way:
“Life is real… Life is earnest
And the grave is not its goal
Dust thou art, to dust returnest
Was not spoken of the soul.”
Adrian’s cancer grew faster than others. After the second operation, which we thought would relieve him of excruciating pain, the cancer dramatically spread with a vengeance, practically covering his entire abdominal area.
After reading the grim report on the second operation, Adrian was so shocked with disappointment and despair, and for the first time in his life openly cried in despair. I could do nothing but embrace him and cry on his shoulder as well. It was a good cry. It was the first time in our lives, as adults, that we cried together on each other’s shoulders, both of us terrified of the unknown enemy.
I now recall Shakespeare, who said that he preferred the terrors of the known to the terrors of the unknown.
After this incident, and because traditional medicine could do nothing more, I decided to lie to Adrian and to limit the reports to him. Indeed, these are the mysterious ways of parents.
In my mind, I wondered why Adrian was being subjected to this merciless experience. But in his mind, he had accepted that suffering is an inevitable part of our lives, that his ordeal had some purpose. Why was Beethoven, the greatest composer, struck deaf, and Milton, a great philosopher, struck blind? So, from Adrian, because of his courage I am learning to accept. Yes, Adrian was, in fact, teaching me acceptance.
Yes, Adrian would get frightfully depressed sometimes, and many times he hungered for contact with his friends. He always tried to sound cheerful, even if his voice was quavering.
When his friends came to visit, he would make jokes and pretend that the tumor was nothing, even if he had to accelerate his morphine consumption to relieve him of his pain and be able to entertain you, his friends. Dick Romulo and his colleagues who visited with Adrian noticed that.
I thank all his friends who are here for helping Adrian live the last two years of his life.
In the end, Adrian died absolutely without fear, and though gasping for air, he finally relaxed and accepted the inevitable. In fact, when he died and I gave him my last embrace, I could not control myself and bawled in the presence of my family. But when I saw his dead and smiling face, I said, “Okay, Ade. I know masaya ka na. Hindi mo kami iniwanan.”
It was his courage that I hope you, his friends, will remember him for—and perhaps for his sweetness, too.