How many times can the heart break? I do not know except that it is painful, like a stab that does not break the skin though the blade stays deep in the gut, a low wail muffled only by the numbing, seeming finality of death.
It does not help that mine is but a nip compared to the bear of grief wrestling his family to the ground. Mine only breaks whereas the heart of his sister Kareen, my sister from another mother, is shattered.
No instrument in the world can reduce the surge of anguish that now washes over his loved ones. Many will mourn but only his siblings can truly fathom the magnitude of his loss, of losing someone so upstanding, so passionate, so alive, and so young.
“Love never dies a natural death,” wrote Anais Nin in her story of two lovers and the four-chambered heart. “It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” But if this is so then Gus has not died, is not dead.
To say that he helped lead the philanthropy of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung is to attempt to fit his persona into a small box. He was more than the basket of laudable advocacies his group ran, and I suspect for this quality the dearest of his colleagues will remain forever grateful.
Gus raged against faux radicalism, the intolerant kind that disparaged the politics of patient engagement with government but which tolerated so willfully rank hypocrisy in its own ranks in the service of dogma and doctrine. He often wondered aloud about what was more obscene, a foul-mouthed, brutal administration or so-called leftists who so easily explain away and enable the cruelty and brutality of the state. He would be dismissed on occasion as an anti-communist, a tag that probably delighted him because he knew where his ire was aimed at. His was confidence of a high kind, unshakable because the circle of friends who embraced him – comrades, each one – were made of the most loyal and hardiest of the elements.
As we send off a dear friend with a final wave of good tidings, we might also wish for ourselves a similar fate: that we may be remembered just as well, so vividly, so intensely, that remembrance permits us to endure far beyond our limited time in the physical world.
Farewell, señor, farewell. Goodbye Gus, beautiful Gus, courageous Gus, feisty, fiery, funny and fabulous Gus, a free soul with that rarest of human qualities: an inner sense of velocity.
Farewell neon Gus, rainbow Gus, sunshine Gus who shined so bright. Goodbye noisy Gus, fierce Gus, Gus who possessed the rare earth of unfettered mirth, a kind of borderless laughter that swipes away all rules governing buoyancy and gravity so easily he could light up entire hallways with self-generated electricity.
Gus who refused to sit on any fence. Angry Gus. Gentle Gus. Gus who knew dawn always comes despite the long listless night. Opinionated Gus. Gus who does not back down. Gus who finds joy in small things. Gus with cheeks so big they were his own pillow. Simple Gus. Outspoken Gus. Tenacious Gus. Gus of a hundred passions. Gus who loved so many so deeply.
He passed away today after a hard battle with a cruel illness. He moved past the veil to join the lofty company of Obet Verzola and Mercy Fabros, and Milo Tanchuling and Ed Santoalla. I have no doubt each of them would welcome Gus and remind him of the truth of Syrio Forel, who gave to Arya the most valuable gift a First Sword of Braavos could bequeath to a fighting soul:
What do we say to the Lord of Death?
Not ever, for as long as you are remembered for the fine human that you were when you were around during your brief stay in the plain of mortals, loving life, loving your self, and loving others.
Watch over us and see you later, Gus. But not yet. Not just yet.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.