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Ms. Alice Rivera, With Respect

[I have been going through a barren patch lately as far as writing is concerned, so I have taken the opportunity to migrate some of my older Facebook Notes to Blogspot for those who have not seen these before. This is one of those stories, written after my sister and I visited the wake of my former teacher and colleague Ms. Alicia Rivera in 2008.]

My sister Winnie and I went to pay our respects to Ms. Alice Rivera after our brief trip to the bank this afternoon. She will be laid to rest tomorrow. Her remains have been lying in state at the mortuary of the San Sebastian Cathedral since she passed away last Saturday.

A lot of people went to visit her while she was alive, and indeed, Ms. Luz Morada, one of her closest friends, asked me if I had gone every time I bumped into her. Frankly, I was running out of lame excuses.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to go. Just as I also didn’t want to go when another colleague, the late Pete Cootauco, was bedridden also with the Big C.

Because my Mom, who I miss terribly to this day – 16 years since she passed away – was a victim of the same malaise, I know I wouldn’t have been able to look either in the eye and not lose my composure. With the Big C, I know there is only one way to go…

For all the advances Science has made, a cure to the Big C continues to elude even the brightest of minds in the Medical profession. And anyone who is related to somebody who died due to the Big C knows that there is no heavier cross to bear than to see one’s beloved erode away before one’s eyes.

Death, if anything, brings relief more than anything to all concerned…

Ms. Alice, she looked so little inside her white casket. Because I was her student while I was still in elementary school, I used to have this notion that she was tall. It was only after puberty that I realized that she wasn’t.

Still, although it was not a shock at all to see her emaciated figure inside the casket, I could not help but feel a pinch inside me to see exactly what had happened to my own Mother.

Her cousin, a nun wearing a gray habit, was kind enough to sit and talk to us while we were at the wake. She was curious to know how we knew Ms. Alice, and we proudly told her that all five of us siblings were the late teacher’s students.

Ms. Alice’s younger sister, upon learning who I was, candidly said that her sister used to talk about me as one of her favorites. Indeed, even the last time I saw her last year, she still called me “Rexie Darling.”

On our way out, I couldn’t help but notice from the guest book that just about everyone who came to visit these last few days came from the school.

Guess that’s the way it is with us people in the education business. There is a sense of finality when we hold our graduation ceremonies, but there is no real severance of ties because memories live on in the minds of those whose lives we have touched.

[This story was first published on Facebook on 13 May 2008.]

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