Rx for the pain of loss | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

SEATED: Susan C. Medina, Evelyn B. Roces, Malu D. Unson. Standing: Cleo G. Llamas, Gigi A. Carlos,Menchi L. Cu-unjieng, Glory L. Alcuaz, Tess R. Alba, the celebrator, Ninit R. Paterno, Marilou R. Laurena, the author, Buchie L. Ayuyao, Rita Ledesma, Malu A. Veloso
SEATED: Susan C. Medina, Evelyn B. Roces, Malu D. Unson. Standing: Cleo G. Llamas, Gigi A. Carlos,Menchi L. Cu-unjieng, Glory L. Alcuaz, Tess R. Alba, the celebrator, Ninit R. Paterno, Marilou R. Laurena, the author, Buchie L. Ayuyao, Rita Ledesma, Malu A. Veloso






Anesthesia was invented for people like me.

I have zero tolerance for pain, have always tried to avoid it and, in fact, managed to dodge not a few whammies.

Just about the only place I submit myself to it is the dentist’s, and only because the alternative is worse. Still I pick the place, and immediately I recognize I have arrived at the right one by its welcome sign: “We cater to cowards.”

Indeed, I fear not much else but pain, which is so anti-life, so anti-joy, so anti-everything that makes life worth living that some people would rather face death.

Innocent yet of birth pains as a first-time mother, and feeling heroic, I had toyed with the idea of forgoing anesthesia in natural childbirth; many valiant mothers before me had sworn it was best for the infant. But I was quickly shown up at the first strong contraction, and all illusions of martyrdom disappeared. I yelled not for any usual recourse, mom or God, but “Anesthesia!”

Priceless reward

Thus, was I introduced to a new kind of pain, the peak of which I had been spared with a shot of the liberating fluid. To be sure, allowed to take its course, the pain would have surpassed the dental kind.

Anyway, it came with a priceless reward—a baby!—and, with anesthesia safer for both mother and child with each subsequent birth, I gladly went through it three more times.

But there’s a kind of pain that comes from an internal, invisible wound and is inescapable for anyone who goes through life, a kind no anesthesia has been invented for: the pain of loss. It serves to reaffirm that we are not merely body but also mind and soul.

Alas, it is precisely in that realm where our vulnerability to this most dreadful of all pain lies. How dreadful? It’s only in hell that the pain of loss goes on forever, we are told. If that were so, then it would be the kind of pain that does no less than create a space where God’s love ends, and there, for me, lies precisely hell’s fallacy.

Yet, when one suffers the loss of one’s spouse or child, it is said to feel, indeed, like having arrived at a Godforsaken loveless place. The pain is so acute and inconsolable that one sometimes seeks desperate remedies. The desperation seems to me best reflected in the opposite instances of, on the one hand, removing all reminders of the loss and, on the other, building an altar of precisely such memorabilia to fill in the vacuum created by the loss.

At any rate, whether alone or in company, there’s no escaping the pain which, mercifully or not, isn’t fatal.

Valiant survivors

At my cousin Ninit’s 75th birthday luncheon on Sunday, aside from what looked like a duplicate of my own prospective guestlist for when my turn comes next year, I recognized that most of the hundred or so guests were valiant survivors of personal losses and that they were holding up well, in fact, looking bright and positive about life in general.

Ninit, herself a widow, decided to make it a hen party, perhaps to better accommodate her legion of friends, not to mention that there were fewer husbands left.

Something about hen luncheons brings out the best in women, not just in looks but in attitude. For one thing, we’ve always dressed up for each other. Indeed, it looked like the celebration of survivors sans guilt; on the contrary, it was filled with gratitude for all things given and cherished in the autumn of their years.

We may be going into new untested waters, but we’re going at a time when family ties have been reinforced and friendships further solidified and made more secure. No one is going alone.

The charming postwar luncheon setting in the old Legarda chalet, now converted into a next-door extension of Ninit’s family’s ancestral-home-turned hotel in old Vito Cruz, collected an army of women, fellow travelers from the different stages of one’s life, comrades in various interests and advocacies, friends through school and marriage, a sisterhood built, as though brick by brick, by being there for one another in times of need and celebration.

Fittingly, on a Sunday that was the eve of the Blessed Mother’s birthday, the occasion began with a Thanksgiving Mass. At a moment’s notice, many in that room, indeed, can transform themselves into a formidable prayer brigade for one another in times of trials.

I myself have been a beneficiary of this loving service, and know how powerful and effective it is against any kind of pain.

We ourselves are living proofs that together, linked by the bonds of prayer and friendship, there is nothing we shall not overcome.

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