“A loved one wishes to inherit nice things from you. Not all things from you.”—Margaretta Magnusson, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning”
It’s been a little over 40 days since he died with his boots on, doing what he loved.
Perhaps, if Eddie Garcia could have directed his own death, he would have had it the way it actually happened—
quick, painless, without fanfare. Being the actor and director that he was, he had long been ready for his final act, down to what his family would do with his ashes. I was really impressed with that.
In a 2013 interview with journalist Ces Drilon, he was very matter-of-fact about death and dying. I suppose it came from having lost two children early in life—one was only 22 when he died in a freak motorcycle accident, while the other was 39 when he suffered a heart attack.
And then Garcia lost his wife to cancer.
Perhaps being so familiar with death made him fearless. I can almost imagine him saying, “Well, I’ve outlived everyone. I’m so ready to go.”
And he did.
The year I turned 50 was significant to me, because it meant that I had lived longer than my dad, who was 49 when he died of a heart attack.
Fifty was a milestone for me to celebrate, but I also sat my daughter down to tell her how I wanted things done if I died, or if I became ill.
Some of the things we discussed:
In the event of an accident or terminal illness, it’s very important to talk about symptom control and management in advance. What kind of palliative care would you like? What are your goals of care?
Think about where and how you would like to die—in the hospital, at home? Do you want all your loved ones with you?
How much medical intervention will you want? What are your thoughts about intubation and the DNR (do not resuscitate) order, and who in your family will make the call? It’s important to give whoever you designate clear directions. The decision-maker needs to understand and agree to carry out your desires.
Do you have an estate plan, and have you discussed this with your children? Is your will up to date?
In January this year, I went full-on Marie Kondo when we finally sold our family home. I asked my children, “Do you want this? Will you have use for this?” We went through 25 years of stuff and kept only what would still be useful, or the items that would bring them joy.
Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you have a memorial plan ready? Where is it? Who will be your point person for your wake, funeral or cremation arrangements? Where will it be held? You can be specific down to the kind of flowers you want, the music they will play, and even who you want to say the Mass or service.
It’s also very important not to have unfinished business, or bear any grudges. You never really know when your number is up, and regret is not something you want to saddle your loved ones with.
In the book “The Four Things That Matter Most,” palliative care specialist Dr. Ira Byock says that there are four things one needs to say to those dying or to those we leave behind: “I’m sorry for…,” “I forgive you for…,” “Please forgive me for…” and “Thank you.”
I always like to add a fifth one: “I love you.” It’s never too early to say these things.
Are there dreams you still wish to fulfill? People to see, write or call, to make amends with? Do it now while you still can. No matter how healthy you are, tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Three of the best books I’ve read about dying well are Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air,” Dr. Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal,” and Katy Butler’s “The Art of Dying Well.”
Among those deeply affected by Eddie Garcia’s passing was his stepson, party list Rep. Mikee Romero. One early morning, at the wake for Garcia at Heritage, Romero had an idea for a bill that would look out for the safety of persons working in the entertainment industry.
“I was thinking that his death should serve a purpose, and that his legacy should live on,” said Romero.
The Eddie Garcia Act or House Bill No. 181 is an Occupational Health Safety Standard Act. When passed as a law, it will provide health and accident insurance coverage among workers in the entertainment industry; standard and humane working schedules of eight to 12 hours, including waiting time; and a layover of at least 12 hours before they begin work again.
There will also have to be a person in charge to identify safety and health hazards, and a strict protocol for emergency procedures, plus stringent sanctions when the network, film or theater company is found to be liable.
Romero first met Garcia when he was only 13 years old. “He was present in all the important events that happened in my life, and he was a grandfather to my own children.”
The congressman says that the bill is very personal to him because of his relationship with the late actor, and also because he was so impressed by Garcia’s work ethic.
“Five years ago, he had a minor aneurysm which was not made public. In the hospital, he told my mother that he needed to go to his shoot the next day, and for several days after. My mom told him that he had to undergo several tests before he could be declared fit to work.
“He said, ‘I want to work.’ So I told him straight that he could not go back to work and huwag na siya matigas ang ulo. He glared at me from his bed, but he knew that we were being strict because we cared for him. He didn’t say a word after and complied.”
Romero remembers three things that Garcia taught him: “First, always be a gentleman to any lady. Second, always be honorable. And third, respect begets respect.”
They say artists never die, because their body of work lives on. That will certainly be so in the case of Eddie Garcia, in the lives of everyone he touched. And, it is hoped, after his death, through the efforts of his stepson, his greatest legacy will be to create a better, safer place for people in the industry that he lived and died for.