Memento Mori

“I shall go on seeking out / lost faces, and faiths in the / cold, collecting, calculating / crowd, sadly aware that later / but an unbreath away / I shall lose them all again”
– Dean Ophelia A. Dimalanta, Finder Loser

 

I have just finished rummaging my library. A sudden urge to dust paperback books, letters that reek of mold and yesterday’s headlines, academic papers stained with dregs of sleepless coffee nights and half a dozen highlight pens, and a surprisingly well-kept bunch of [love] letters. As I pour myself into this disheveled array of tokens and keepsakes, I stumbled upon a 2.5 by 1.5 inch vintage photograph, its four sides haphazardly folded, and neatly tucked within a thick, musty and dust-covered leather bound book.

photo

It is fascinating how memory can flood your head with nostalgic joy before breaking your heart because of incurable longing. My lolo and lola. Grandpa and grandma. Ester and Ramon. Young lovers smiling cautiously at the command of the faceless photographer. It was prom night. I can only imagine how they sheepishly made small talk, while throwing timid but sincere glances and laughing at each other’s attempt at humor or the lack thereof. Or how they nervously swayed into each other’s arms to the tune of Nat King Cole, or Ella Fitzgerald – or probably they were shuffling their feet to the tune of the King Elvis Presley or some local musical band? Who can know?

In the end, their dance sired a family that continues to strive and flourish up to this day. The same dance, but different participants moving to an updated and sometimes unlikely tune.

I look at the photograph. Among others, the idea of death bubbles from underneath all the memory and sensation. Death. The ultimate equalizer. We are not born equal but we are irretrievably bound for death and decay. I look at lolo Ramon and lola Ester’s faces, made forever young by the lens of the camera and the fleeting memory it evokes. I become more aware of this idea. Like a love letter slowly being enveloped and finally sealed, to be mailed to God-knows-where and be read by God-knows-who.

I look at the photograph. I smile at myself as an idea envelops me. The goal is not to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.

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