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NOT TEARS BUT LOVE AND MEMORY
Christian Gabriel D. Capinpin’s First Death Anniversary
Feb. 6, 2010, Heritage Park, Taguig City, 3pm Mass
Remember last year when we were in this same chapel together? That was the time when the ashes of Christian were finally brought to its final rest. Last year the mood was tense and the ambience was sad. People were trying to stifle tears but nonetheless they flowed. People were trying to focus on beautiful memories but the pain of separation was too difficult to overlook. We were here last year to say goodbye and, as no goodbye is pleasant, we were crushed in spirit as we came and as we left.
Filipinos most instinctively and creatively devise ways to ease the unseemly part of definitive farewells. We mourn for a year. We allow our minds and hearts to exhaust all longing, regret and sadness through a long period of ritualized remembrances of the one we love.
It is all right to wear black or neutral or plain colors. It is all right to visit the tomb weekly or even more frequently than that. It is all right to display the personal effects and memorabilia attached to the person. It is all right if you feel skipping holidays and other important celebrations because you’re not in a festive mood. It is all right to do these things for an entire year.
And it makes perfect sense, because then we feel that acceptance takes the place of denial. Slowly we begin to realize that on our beloved’s birthday, we no longer order a cake to symbolize the additional year. On Christmas day, there will be one less gift under the tree. On New Year’s day, there is one less person to join the noise barrage. After one year, the fact settles down that our circle has become smaller by one. And this is irreversible.
On the first anniversary of a person’s death, finally we proclaim that the mourning is over – officially. In a Mass I celebrated for a similar occasion, the widow, wearing her black, mourning clothes, left the church after the homily and re-emerged minutes later, wearing a dress of bright colors, as if to signify that in that Mass, an exchange takes place – dark gives place to light, tears turn into smiles, the past opens up to the future. Life must go on.
However I wish to ask you today, on the anniversary of Christian’s death: Is the sadness totally gone? Is the pain non-existent now? Is the longing no longer felt? I am sure that all of us, starting from Chris’ family, will honestly answer with a loud NO!
The longing’s still here! The sadness is still felt! The pain, lesser in intensity, is still part of every waking day!
Why? The answer is simple. Because love did not stop flowing between you and Chris the day you consigned his ashes to the ground. The connection between you and Chris was never severed when you said goodbye to him last year. It is not possible to do this because love is the most powerful force in this world.
That is why the Lord is asking us to end the mourning but not the loving. The Lord knows we can easily shed off clothes and memorabilia but we cannot take back love once it is given. And we can only do so to the detriment of our souls. For human nature was made to love and to love continuously until heaven. Love becomes even more powerful when one party to the love relationship is already in that blessed place.
This anniversary therefore is not about death. Nor is it about mourning. It is not about reliving the past. This anniversary, and the ones coming after this, is all about love.
In heaven, Chris continues to love you Raffy, Jane and Renz. In heaven Chris continues to love the same people to whom he was devoted in his earthly life. Tapped to the source of love, the One God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Chris has only one capacity left, and that is the capacity to love his family and his friends. I know you feel it strongly in your lives every day.
And as we celebrate his anniversary, are we not also empowered by such love? We continue to remember Chris because the act of remembering is an overflow of the love we have in our hearts for him. If we truly love, then we will never forget. To love is to keep in one’s heart not only vague images or fading memories but the beloved himself. This is what we learn from Jesus and what we have experienced from Him and His Church.
One year ago, we were gathered here in tears, saying goodbye Christian.
Today, one year after, we are together again, not in tears but in love, not saying “goodbye, Christian” but saying “we will always remember you, Christian!”
God bless you all.
 
CHRISTIAN IS HERE
The tragic thing about death is not so much the loss of opportunity or the end of possibilities or even the damage it can do to people. I think the greatest challenge of death has something to do with the word ‘goodbye.’ A goodbye is not an easy word to say. The French have a saying that every goodbye is a little dying. Death, which is an ultimate goodbye to earthly life, is therefore a hard-hitting and very painful goodbye.
We may try to numb our senses to the pain of separation. But we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that someone close to us, someone we live with, someone we share so much with, someone whose life intertwined with ours, someone who has a place in our heart – that someone is no longer here. He has gone.
What about the familiar face, the lively smile, the gentle manners, the kindly gestures?  What about the light moments, the serious talks, the unforgettable  experiences? 
We fear death because we fear that death will separate us from a person and from everything else the person is known for. And then we say, we miss that person. And truly, we do. Missing someone is like dying many times every day. Missing someone is going through life covered with a dark cloud or a light mist. Either way, we want to see clearly, but we honestly can’t.
I remembered the other day that Christian, one afternoon last Christmas season 2008, when he suddenly appeared at the parish rectory, brought with him not only his precious girlfriend, Cathy, whom he introduced to me. Christian also brought with him a gift for me, his parish priest. I know it was a book but I never really took a serious look at that book. I was more interested in the love of his life, the joy of his life, who I was meeting for the first time and who I heard of from Christian many, many times in our conversations. I searched for the book and found it – The Last Lecture. It was about a professor, diagnosed with terminal cancer, seizing the opportunity to lecture his students not about dying, but about living.
Christian wrote a short dedication which when I read again moved me so much. Let me read what he said:  Dear Father, may our friendship endure despite the distance! Thank you so much for the memories that we have shared and I hope we have many more in the future! I wish you all the best in your new assignment and may that Lord always guide you. Your friend, Christian.
Since I have met him in the parish, we have always exchanged gifts on Christmas.  Christmas is also his birthday.  My friend knew I was transferring to a new assignment this year and he registered his protest when he learned about it. But even before I move to my new post, Christian has already moved ahead of me into his new home.
He was hoping the memories shared will remain.  He was praying there will be many more future memories of friendship.
As we celebrate this Eucharist, I know all of us, and for his mom Jane and dad Raffy, and brother Lorenzo – more than all of us – are trying to hold on to the memories of Christian.  We have said goodbye to his gentle face, his wonderful character, his bodily presence.  We know we cannot keep those now.  They are forever gone.
But we want to keep the memories.  The photos of Christian with his friends, the letters of his classmates, the message of his love Cathy – all these try to preserve the remaining memories of a wonderful person’s brief life, just all of 19 years.  The stories of his mom and dad, the recollections of Renz – all these reveal how much they are trying to conserve whatever is left of Christian’s private life with them. Only they know the real Christian, with his secret joys and pains. These memories of Christian are now no longer just memories for this wonderful family.  They are now treasures, source of strength and inspiration, source of joy.
How do you keep the memories alive?  The passion may be strong at this time.  The feelings may be overwhelming in these first few months and even years.  But we know as human beings, our lives move on and we cannot afford to sit down and brood over memories. We cannot shut ourselves in our rooms and spend the day reminiscing.  It would not be fair for us.  It would not be what Christian wants from his family and friends.  That is why, many people forget the memories of people they used to love.  May people decide to erase memories of people they once knew.
For those who truly love Christian, I know you are saying to yourself:  I will never forget him.  He will always be in my heart and mind. 
But we cannot do this by our selves.  We can only do this if God is with us.
Jesus teaches us today how to remember Christian forever and not only to bring back old memories of him but to bring him back in contact with us. Jesus knows the power of love but also the danger of fading, forgetful love. Jesus whose love alone is most faithful in all of human history and all of salvation history leads us to the perpetual memory of our loved ones who have gone before us.
Today, we celebrate the Eucharist for Christian. The Mass is Jesus’ memory made alive each time we gather to listen to his words and to receive his body and blood.  The Mass is also the meeting point of the entire creation. Nature is here in the elements we use.  Human beings are here adoring God and praising him.  Angels are here helping us to love God more. And the souls of the departed are here, Christian is here, though invisible, not in memories alone, but truly present with us, loving God with us and praying to God with us, as he has done while he was bodily alive.
Do you want to remember your departed loved one? Do you want to get in touch with them?  Celebrate the Eucharist.  It is our new rendezvous, our new meeting point, our new contact.
Many times, Christian came to the parish office offering Mass intentions for his departed relatives.  He believed in the power of the Eucharist, as we all do, to be forceful in bridging heaven and earth. Now, we are the ones offering Mass intentions for Christian.  For one year, starting from the day of his death, our parish in Kapitolyo will celebrate 6pm daily Mass for Christian’s soul, to remember him and to make him present still in our faith community.
How many young people today, and even old ones, have grown bored with Mass and even neglected to prioritize the Eucharist all because they failed to understand what it truly means.
But my memory of Christian will not be primarily about the topics we discussed or the food we ate.  My memory of him will take me to the moments I have seen him faithfully attend the Eucharist with his family, and reverently received Communion, and silently listened to the Word of God.
Christian was not always attentive at Mass. Going out of the adoration chapel, I saw him sleeping through the homily of another priest.  After Mass I sent him a text message: I saw you at Mass.  And I caught you sleeping through the homily. I will report you to Father. He replied: Oh no, Fr., please don’t. I admit that I was very tired, so I slept. – who was I not to forgive a tired Christian?
My dear friends we go from here not to more tears and sadness but to more hope and consolation.  Our source of recovery and impetus for life comes from Jesus in the Eucharist.
I would like us all to send back to Christian the greeting he scribbled on the book he gave me.  This is a message we send him every time we remember him in the Eucharist. Let us rise and please repeat after me:
Dear Christian: may our friendship endure/ despite the distance!  Thank you so much/ for the memories that we have shared/ and I hope we have many more in the future./ I wish you all the best in your new home/ and may the Lord always bless you./ Christian, pray for us, your family and friends./ We love you.
Feb. 7, 2009; 10:00am
Mount Carmel Church, Gilmore
Wake for Chris