BELOW THE LINE
By AMBASSADOR JOSE ABETO ZAIDE
The following is an undated letter from one classmate to another over a bosom buddy known to many:
I write about Gary. Of course, not unlike many, I feel downhearted about Gary. Well, not really sad about Gary, himself … he is now far beyond the reach of sadness or anything not good for that matter. Knowing Gary he couldn’t care less about Lising at the moment. He knows he should be more than okay where he is at present and future-wise.
I feel down more because where were my sad feelings for him when he must have been feeling such sadness and loneliness for what must have been a long time before he passed away a few days ago? About a little more than a week ago, a fleeting thought about Gary crossed my mind – I wondered how he was. Anyway, as quietly as he intruded in my thoughts, he quickly floated away and vanished. Regrettable, how we fail to notice much a friend, while in our midst, in need, and remember him pointedly only when he is forever gone. Frankly, at the instant, I feel more off for myself than for Gary.
Last time I saw Gary was several months ago at my Liberty office. He had called up that morning if he could see me and ask for help. “Sure,” I told him, “anytime.” Within moments, he arrived at my office. I didn’t find him looking well at all. Gary said he had suffered a stroke sometime during the night and that his distorted face that morning was looking more handsome than the one he slept with the evening before — vintage Lising, indeed. Nevertheless, Gary said he needed financial assistance to go to the hospital.
I brought Gary to Philtrust at the ground of Liberty and offered him some cash. “This is only a loan,” Gary insisted, and I nodded “of course.” I asked Gary if he wanted my car to bring him to Makati Medical but he replied, “No” as he needed to go somewhere first. Then and there, I should have physically hauled him to the emergency room of Makati Medical. Instead, I merely walked him across Pasay Road where he boarded a public jeepney. That was the very last time I saw Gary. Riding off into the sunset of life isn’t always done on the saddle of a white stallion.
At the mass during Gary’s wake last night, the words of the first reading caught me … “Our days are like the grass; like flowers of the field we blossom. The wind sweeps over us and we are gone; our place knows us no more. But the Lord’s kindness is forever….” I searched around the small funeral chapel while Father Balchand spoke and saw our many friends. I could still recognize “who” are now and ‘who’ they were then. My kindest thought was “how we all have matured.” I could almost hear Gary whisper some of his patented jokes about his Atenean schoolmates who refuse to admit the onslaught of potbellies, stooped backs, and hair loss. Life, Ernie, is playing a wicked game of Russian roulette with all of the classmates of Lising. Two weeks ago it was Rant Castillo. Last week it was Gary Lising. One was a bred valedictorian, the other was a funny guy who graduated way too late, laughing. Both were good friends we, who are still standing, will sorely miss.
Anyway, Ernie, as blithely as Gary intruded into many of our lives, he walked away with barely a whimper. Perhaps that was sort of a farewell prank from him … casually in, out quietly. Father Balchand in his homily last night said Gary gifted laughter to so many of his friends. Isn’t such a precious blessing he gifted us with? I can’t help but think “What did I give Gary in return?” Oh well, if one becomes not heeding, many chances are lost with the wind often for always.
The past two days the Internet bustled with text and viber messages about Gary as legend. True, indeed, Lising jokes were unique and Gary couldn’t be cloned even if attempted. Yes, Gary is legend but, honestly, that is not what I will remember him for. I shall remember Gary for the lesson he is teaching me now about life. That life can be funny but it can also be unkind. That life can shove opportunities in our faces but it can just as abruptly take them without reason. That life can be pitiless in its unfairness. That one can be the center of attention and be desperately lonely. That sadness can be camouflaged with laughter. That one can be a friend but at times forgotten. That it requires tough effort to be a genuine friend. That always the joy and delight you spread to others will always be remembered with gratefulness. That there is no timelessness … even the wittiest of puns and a difficult life have expiration dates. That a marvel like Gary Lising, who made Baby and Ernie and his unnumbered company of friends double-up with painful laughter, will remain, unlike the many of us, unforgotten
Ernie, wherever Gary is, I pray he doesn’t lose his sense of humor.
Incident at Recto (Reed) Bank, West Philippine Sea. GEM-VIR 1 is a fishing vessel named after a contracted-combination of Gemini and Virgo (the Zodiac signs of a wife’s father-in-law and of her husband). The boat was anchored and manned by 22 old salts (the captain, a cook, a Mr. Fix-it repair man, and a crew of 19), when it was rammed by Chinese vessel and its crew was left bobbing in the waters. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported the incident last Wednesday (our 121st Independence Day), especially the abandonment of the hapless crew.
Mercifully, a Vietnamese vessel picked up the Filipino crew and the damaged vessel and towed them to port. China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua vowed a thorough probe into the incident, “If it were true that it was a Chinese fishing boat which did it, they would be duly educated and punished for their irresponsible behavior.” Abangan!