No hay mal que por bien no venga.” Roughly translated: There is nothing bad, from which good cannot result. It’s a Spanish saying I heard from my paternal grandparents, growing up with them, and it has been proved right for them as well as for me. The seasons seem to give the same promise—after winter comes spring.
But this pandemic winter we and and the rest of the world have been going through is like no other. We’ve been into it for almost two years, and no clear end is yet in view. For one thing, the vaccines against the deadly coronavirus promise no such lasting and decisive efficacy as those against smallpox, polio, etc. Even if spring does come in the end, it might never be the same again.
Life itself is changing so fast. This virus is forcing us to give up even simple entitlements as human beings, and it’s always difficult to imagine the good that will result from them. To be sure, life is naturally part hardships, from which, once overcome, blessings occur. With that attitude we can transform the deadly virus into a healing one. And it’s precisely from that perspective that I look to for reassurance in moments of self-doubt; it inspires renewed strength and resilience.
I am most grateful, too, for being accompanied through it all by a husband I can always count on to help make things easier and funnier. Indeed, we find ourselves able to laugh, especially in retrospect, of course, at even the most painful lessons. Both bonus and baggage now, a son and a granddaughter are part of our home team.
No doubt about it, this virus is forcing us to deal with unwelcome changes and sometimes irreparable losses. I’ve lost family and friends to the pandemic. The widows among my friends have the hardest time of all. But, at our ages, death, pandemic or no pandemic, could be just around the corner; it’s all a matter of divine appointment.
I had a lady friend, a homebody, who in her late 80s suddenly wanted to be anywhere else but home. People who had gotten used to dropping by unannounced were disappointed they couldn’t catch her at home anymore. I asked her, “Ngayon ka pa tumanda ngayon ka pa naging layas?” She laughed, explaining herself: In the event Grim Reaper came a-calling, she wouldn’t be home. “Let him find me!”
I recall John O’Hara’s “Appointment in Samarra,” the story of a man who tries to escape death by running away and settling in the last place he is so sure he will not be found—Samarra. It turns out precisely the place of his final appointment. Believe me, it is best not knowing or presuming the time or place, and simply leaving everything to God’s proven kindness.
Many years ago, in my late 50s, one tiny veil among the many layers of mysteries of life and death was lifted for me. I had an out-of-body experience. I had collapsed at home, after nearly a month of spotting. As I was falling, I felt a strong pull in the opposite direction, and found myself separated from my body, which lay on the floor, people fussing over it. I was looking at the scene from a sort of surreal perspective; in fact it wasn’t—still isn’t—clear to me from what perspective and with what sense I was perceiving.
A doctor friend in the neighborhood came to my aid and found that my blood pressure had dropped to nearly zero, a fact that I was to learn only later. I saw myself being carried upstairs, and there, in my bedroom, I felt myself reunited with my body—in plain sense, I came to. I was rushed to a hospital for an emergency gynecological procedure, which, while being done, required considerable blood transfusion.
I’m a long way from knowing much, but I will never forget the experience of being somewhere, seeing from a different perspective, and detached, to the point of not being able to identify with my body nor recognize anybody else. Neither did I seem curious to know what’s happening; I had no emotions, no feeling of pleasure or pain, and no sense of judgment. I was like a mirror taking everything in. I felt light and liberated, as if everything were as it should be.
Some have experienced and shared even longer similar episodes. A prisoner wrote that, under torture, he suddenly felt separated from his body, unable to identify with it or feel its pain or recognize or feel any emotion against his tormentors.
What is clearly revealed in our common experience is God’s mercy. How can we even doubt it, having lived as long as we have; we had seen it many times and in different forms before. The lesson of discretion I’ve learned from it all is that, while there are matters we must fight and work for, there are others best accepted as they are and entrusted in God’s hands for resolution.
May God grant us the wisdom to know the difference. INQ