Angelo Reyes? To mourn or not to mourn

020812-D-9880W-006<br />	Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) escorts his guest, Gen. (Ret.) Angelo Reyes, minister of national defense of the Republic of the Philippines, into the Pentagon on Aug. 12, 2002.  The two defense leaders will hold discussions on a broad range of security topics, including the war on terrorism.  DoD photo by R. D. Ward.  (Released)<br />MANILA - Mid-morning news today, 08 February 2011, says "Former DND Secretary Angelo Reyes (committed) suicide" while he was with 2 of his sons and 2 aides visiting his mother's tomb; he had asked for them to leave him alone for a while, and then shot himself in the chest (Cocoy Dayao, 08 February 2011, propinoy.net). That would be to the heart. Someone said those who fall from grace usually shoot themselves in the head. Was Secretary Reyes saying his conscience was clear (his head), but they had broken his spirit (his heart)?

It happened at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City (PEP, Yahoo News). He was declared dead on arrival at the Quirino Memorial Hospital. This afternoon, I heard General Mariano Santiago say over DZBB (I don't listen to radio but my wife does and this time I was paying attention), that suicide was apparently the only way Secretary Reyes thought could redeem his honor, which is one of the high ideals of PMA graduates, which they both are. It was to protect his family from any further fallout from the Senate inquiry in aid of legislation into the plea bargaining agreement with Major General Carlos Garcia who had been accused of plunder by the Philippine government.

Goodbye, Secretary Reyes!

No, I never knew Secretary Reyes nor am I related to him or his wife, nor is he my townmate, but I am shocked nevertheless. He was going to be 65 next month, on 17 March 2011. I am 71. Life is precious, and for it to end, and more so suddenly, the angst comes abruptly. We the living are not programmed to accept a love one's death instantly. We grieve much, and suddenly.

And I, I have suddenly realized that we must learn some lessons for living from the dead. Let me start with a personal favorite, from John Donne (from Meditations XVII, The Literature Network):

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine's own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.

We must grieve. But how do we grieve? It is important that we grieve well; it is necessary to our soul's nourishment that we grieve and ultimately heal ourselves.

Angelo Tomas Reyes had been grieving. All he did was grieve in, not out. Grief must be good, in and out. Now his loved ones will have to learn to grieve well.

In grief, we the living must watch out; if we don't, our grief will slide us slowly or surely down the abyss of depression, or worse. Depression is a familiar territory to me. Been there, done that. I escaped from the imprisonment of shame and guilt only when I learned to forgive myself. And that was the hardest thing to do.

Based on my experience then, I want to share with you an insight, a new concept, AFFOGo, borrowing from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' concept of DABDA, the 5 stages of coping with death by those who are terminally ill: Denial > Anger > Bargaining > Depression > Acceptance. (I have written about DABDA; see my "The Children of Maidanek," 20 May 2007, American Chronicle). My AFFOGo is the flipside - it begins where DABDA leaves off. It is the 5 stages of coping with the undeniable and unexpected death of a loved one: Acceptance > Forgiveness, once > Forgiveness, twice > Offering > Grieving out. Yes, you must go through 2 different stages of Forgiveness. Both deal with death. DABDA is for dealing with the darkness; AFFOGo is for dealing with the light.

Stage 1, Acceptance: You have to accept at once; if you deny the fact of someone's death, sudden or not, you are a living dead. Or a coward of the Shakespearian variety. Let us learn from the most famous soliloquy of the world (Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1):

... To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all ...

Stage 2, Forgiveness, once: In conscience, the next stage is to forgive that someone who has hurt you, dead or alive. 99 out of 100 you will probably say, at once, "I have forgiven." If you say so. Have you, really? If you have not forgotten those hurts, you have not forgiven, really. You are a damn fool to forgive someone who has done you grave wrong, right? Right. Be a damn fool and forgive that someone anyway!

Stage 3, Forgiveness, twice: Speaking as a Roman Catholic, I know it's easy to confess your sins to a priest, do penance, and accept pardon when he says God has forgiven you, but it's next to impossible to forgive yourself. You may have forgiven others, but if you have not forgiven yourself, you have not truly forgiven. And how do you know that you have not forgiven yourself? Same measure used for forgiving others: You have not forgiven yourself if you have not forgotten those hurts. Forgotten is forgiven. Be a damn fool, forgive yourself and forget, anyway!

Stage 4, Offering to God: We must accept that we are at the end of our rope, surrender all our sadness to God, cast all our cares at the foot of The Cross. You must carry your cross, but when you can't take it anymore, throw that personal cross there. We must offer everything to the Almighty. This is the penultimate stage to healing.

Stage 5, Grieving out: Finally, we must learn to grieve out in order to be able to grieve well. "I love mankind," Linus of Peanuts says. "It's people I can't stand." To grieve out is to let go and let God. Only then can you proceed to full healing. Only then can you be free to love mankind again, specific people specially.

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