‘Happy Death Anniversary’

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By Nina S. Custodio


Sunday, August 10, 2014

SILENCE. (I was on the phone with my bestfriend.)


“What? It is your Dad’s death anniversary right? You said so.”



“Well, how do you acknowledge that? It would be weird to post Happy Death Anniversary to your Dad on your (FB) wall, right?”

“Yeah. Weird.”

Needless to say, I would have to agree that when it comes to letting someone know that his/her dearly departed family member/friend is remembered fondly on the day they went away can be uh, awkward.

Happy Death Anniversary? Really? Emil and I laughed, no, snorted and snickered about how genuinely misleading it is to actually say that! When one says that what does it mean? That you are happy that they’ve been dead for nth years? Duh!

Who is happy??

I think of this and I smile. What does it mean when you say Happy Death Anniversary? Deaths are basically sad points in our lives. Most people are scared of the Reaper’s coming and we try to negotiate our appointments with him as much as we can by trying to live healthy and safer lives. It is a grim part of our lives when we need to let go of people we love, cherish and hoped we could spend the rest of our lives with. It is inevitable and all of us are going to succumb to it no matter what.

And so, why greet any living member of the family a Happy Death Anniversary? I know I am sounding like a broken record but really, why? I think there ought to be a better way of commemorating such an event. Somehow I could not help but feel that it is quite “improper” to actually say Happy Death Anniversary. It does remind us of a sad time and moreover, it may only serve as reminder that a loved one is no longer with us! I doubt too, that you would agree that you can celebrate death the way you would birth. It would be awkward! I believe that we eventually go through our own lives forever missing that special person. In fact, it is quite possible that we never really get over the loss of someone dear but learn to accept the fact that they are no longer with us so we need to go on with our lives without them.

Standing before my father’s grave, I am not filled with happiness, truth be told. An air of melancholy pervaded the air and that feeling of longing for his presence hang heavily that I have always felt that I could touch it. There is a long moment of silence and sighs, of remembering times when he was around. It’s funny how all the good memories have persisted in my memory much more than the sad and bad times. I guess that is how most of us survive the death of a loved one…by thriving on good memories and actually convincing ourselves that they have gone to the best place to be.

Happy Death Anniversary.

I have been mentally ruminating on these words for the past few days. At this point, it does feel like that when we are able to say these words, we have moved on. We have accepted our new lives without them. Happy Death Anniversary? Hmmm. I don’t think so. It just feels a bit disconcerting everytime I say it. Half-truths that continuously challenge the way you really think and feel. At most, I can say that I am relieved. I am relieved that we have managed to pick up the pieces and moved on. I am relieved that I was able to accept that my father is gone and that I could finally cry about it. I am relieved that my father’s pain has ended. I have dreams of him smiling and happily pain-free. It encourages me to to just keep going on days when I feel beaten up and losing out to the difficult challenges in life.

I know others have more difficulty with having a loved one passing. Some people take longer to embrace mortality. Some are never able to let go. Maybe it is for them that I feel more concern for whenever I “greet” to commemorate the death of someone they love. After all deaths are not celebrated. I actually believe that most people would rather not remember that. Some would rather think that their loved one has just gone on a long trip far away and has chosen to stay there, until the time they meet again.

So, how do we say Happy Death Anniversary without actually saying it? What words will truly express how we feel about another year coming and going without that significant person, that we actually celebrate their life and legacy rather than their actual passing? I guess we commemorate the awesome life that our loved ones lived and rejoice that in death, their memories never cease to inspire and guide us to become better, stronger people. In essence, Happy Death Anniversary does not mean that per se, it means we are happy you led an awesome life with us and we will never, ever forget it!

Happy Sunday Everyone! :)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 10, 2014.


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