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Post-mortem bridge

By: JASON BAGUIA November 03,2017 - 09:54 PM


Long ago, someone embossed Death on the stone chapel’s pediment. There she reigns, a gray skeleton with a crown on her skull, a scythe in her right hand, an hourglass in her left.

No cross stands on the rooftop, and that is no design blunder. An abundance of crosses marks the graveyard. Two large ones, brown as dried blood draw visitors who can no longer locate the resting spots of their dear departed.

They light candles around each cross, crosses that remember forgotten souls and forgive the living’s memory lapses.

The old chapel has yet to catch a restorer’s eyes. I do not remember praying Mass inside. The chapel saw us bury Mama’s Papa when I was turning five. Then it already looked old.

It looks forlorn now, but I cannot escape it. The remains of my kin on my mother’s side await the last judgment in a niche on its southeastern corner. Mama and I go there as we have done year after year.

At the appointed time we will sleep here — my sister and I once told each other — here where it will be merry, unlike in the younger memorial parks where corpses lie few and far between, as if their owners were antisocial; here where I sometimes imagine how loony the final judgment might get, when I might have to shout “Hey, that’s my scapula!” as I leave my tomb.

We lay flowers and light candles for names that bespeak our Hispanic past. Lucio, Rufina, Alipio, Panfila — names that no longer sound current in the land.

Are our names less heavenly now? Lolo Lucio was named after Santa Lucia, Lola Rufina after San Rufino, Lolo Alipio after San Alipio.

Our own names will be engraved into the tombstone one day. Will loved ones tell our time from the sound of our names? This is the better question, perhaps: Will our names, our selves be inscribed in the stars?

They still shine in my mind: Lola Rosario, who, while looking out of the caimito-shaded terrace onto C. Padilla Street, spoke her mind aloud to the Blessed Virgin; Lolo Alfredo, who for me launched into the air sparrows wrought from type-laden scratch paper and told me how Judas Iscariot’s body blew up like a famous firecracker after he hanged himself for betraying Our Lord; Lola Panfila, who visited our home, wherever it was, when we’re still nomadic, and called out my name in a near-soprano instead of knocking when she did come calling, the lola who took me to venerate the Cross on Good Friday and taught me how to shape used grocery bags into flowers.

I do not know how I will be remembered. We ourselves shall be loved and then forgotten — Thornton Wilder once wrote — but the love will have been enough. I do not know the metaphysics of memory beyond the grave for certain, but I have stories I hope to tell my grandmothers and grandfathers and each loved one who would care to hear, having been gifted with the stories they told me and the stories I saw them live.

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead; and the bridge, Wilder wrote, is love — the only survival, the only meaning.

May our love be strong enough to bridge us when the time comes from this passing world to the land of endless light.

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TAGS: Bridge, chapel, post, stone, There

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