IV. TO MY DAUGHTER, KARINA GARCIA ON HER TWELFTH BIRTHDAY
TO MY DAUGHTER, KARINA GARCIA ON HER TWELFTH BIRTHDAY
By Ermin Garcia
The SUNDAY PUNCH
November 6, 1963
Karina, my darling daughter:
We are all here for the big day tomorrow. In a little more than a couple of hours, it will be Thursday, November 7—your twelfth birthday anniversary. It is now ten minutes past nine, and as I write this in my office I am alone—with you, I fervently hope, like the few moments that evening you breezed into this room tired but happy from the Christ the King procession on October 27.
Your brother is back from Baguio where he had gone for his classes. He has brought gorgeous roses and other flowers as beautiful for you and for the altars before which you used to pray with that twinkle in your eyes. And there are still more flowers from friends and people who love and admire you even from the infinite distance which separates you from us all.
I have in my office that portion of the calendar on which a few weeks back you drew a circle around the “7” of November, with the gay and loud reminder scrawled overhead, “DO NOT FORGET KARINA.” I notice that with those words you did not bring attention only to your birthday, but more meaningfully, to remember you on the day.
It was as if you knew you won’t be around when your birthday came. But if you only knew, my darling, that forgetting you, wherever you’d be, is like forgetting to breathe and to think at all, you would agree with me that there really was no need for the reminder, priceless and cherished though it is now.
Early in the morning, the family will hold communion with you and all the other saints through the Holy Eucharist during one of several Masses to be said for you during the day, Masses here and elsewhere offered by your schoolmates, by your friends, our friends, by the family and other relatives.
Later in the morning, we shall bring to your classmates the refreshments you had planned to give them yourself on your birthday. It will be as you and we had planned. There will be the usual kind thoughts and loving regard for you. But there won’t be the mischievous smile, the witty banter, the laughing eyes, not the dulcet voice—because Somebody Up There, it has turned out, has had plans quite at variance with ours.
Your sudden departure from our midst cannot make us forget either November 7 or Karina. Long after the ink with which you scrawled that filial reminder will have faded with the tears of the years, the memory of you will yet be as lustrous as the beauty of your soul. Long after these eyes, now squeezed dry of tears, will have closed in sheer exhaustion through the years, long after this grief-laden heart will have ceased to beat, multitudes—not the rest of the family alone—will be singing hymns to your memory.
How can we forget you, darling? In life you gave us our most blissful moments; just as in death you gave us the most poignant hours. Forget you, Karina? We would just as soon forget life itself.
There are indications that although you took leave of us with split-second suddenness, it looks as if all the time you had some pre-arranged covenant with the Almighty Father, the Father of us all. By your departure you seared our hearts beyond repair. But as in our limited and slow comprehension it dawned on us that it was as you had craved it and as He had willed it, I ask myself why I weep. And I realize that possibly my sight had been blurred by the tears of self-pity that I helplessly shed. I realize that, in my selfishness, I weep for myself—for the loss of the joys that you caused and the magnificent delight that you were to me, for the parental stupidity and neglect that allowed the circumstances that brought about your departure.
In our prideful happiness over you, we did our best to make you happy, but we must admit our best is but an infinitesimal drop in the eternity of bliss that is now your well-deserved reward, and which you quietly, unceasingly sought. You came to us an angel and after lighting up our lives with twelve years of unblighted happiness, you were recalled to receive your infinite reward for a job well done.
As we bow our heads and pour our grateful hearts to Him who loaned you to us, we thank you, Karina, for enriching our lives and giving us the sublime example of your life.
Remember the day in September that your mother caught you at the telephone saying in verses you yourself spun that “THE BEST DAY TO DIE WOULD BE ON THE FIRST DAY OF NOVEMBER, BECAUSE IT IS FIRST FRIDAY AND ALSO ALL SAINTS’ DAY AND THE NEXT DAY IS THE FIRST SATURDAY?”
And in my pocket all these days is a piece you dictated over the telephone a day before your departure, and which was written down by a bosom friend and classmate. And I quote what you had dictated:
“THE DAY WHEN I DIED”
IT WAS NOVEMBER FIRST WHEN I WAS SUFFERING WITH ACHES. TWELVE O’CLOCK STRUCK AND NO WORD CAME OUT FROM MY MOUTH. I FELL NTO THE HANDS OF MY MOTHER WHO WAS WATCHING ME FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT ITHOUT ANY SLEEP. SHE KNOWS I AM DEAD AND SHE CALLED FOR MY SISTERS AND BROTHER…
“MY SCHOOL WAS INNOCENT ABOUT MY DEATH UNTIL THE PHONE RANG AND ANNOUNCED MY DEATH. I KNOW IT WAS A BIG SHOCK FOR THEM.”
It was twelve o’clock of November first—the First Friday and All Saints’ Day—when I jumped out from my car in company with two doctors and two loyal co-workers in the office to rush to your succor at the beach. And you had just expired then. That this day I remain sane after those frenzied moments and hours of shocked lunacy, I attribute to your kind prayers for me.
And as you had predicted, your school (the Sisters) did not know of your death until their phone rang and your sisters and your brother tumbled through their tears the announcement of your death. And I am certain it was a shock to them. You see, it was a shock to me too.
This evening on the arrival of your loving brother from Baguio, he handed to me a letter from his Father class adviser at the St. Louis University.
The coincidence of similarity between his letter and the piece you dictated over the phone on the eve of your departure is poignantly but significantly striking. The letter said, “…She went on All Saints’ Day—heaven was open and she took the best occasion to enter. Please look with faith upon your grief because from heaven she will be able to send more graces than ever….”
Although for reasons of your own you kept it back from me, you repeatedly had expressed your dream to be a writer. Now that joyous wish will always remain a dream, for me as well as for you. And this adds to my anguish because I know you would have done great credit to a discredit profession. I felt it in the icy printer’s ink that passes for blood in my hardened veins that with your spunk and intellectual endowments, you would be a great newspaperwoman.
Yes, all that is gone. But, if it is a consolation to you as it is to me, you have become something more important. You are and will always be the Muse of him whom you singled out in your scrapbook as “my favorite and greatest columnist.” I will never measure up to even near-greatness only, but I want you to know that I shall always try to be worthy of you as a writer, my beloved Muse.
The day before you left, you, a freshman, triumphed over others more advanced than you in years by winning the first place in the declamation contest in the entire high school department of the Blessed Imelda’s Academy. While it pains me now to realize that I was not able to do anything to help you in your preparations, the fact somehow fills me with pride for then the honor and the glory was all yours and yours alone.
“CURFEW MUST NOT RING TONIGHT”— that was your prize-winning piece. They say—since I was not there just as I was not there either at the beach in your hour of your greatest need,—that you were terrific, you were calm and gaily nonchalant. It was a memorable farewell performance, because curfew rang for me the next day. Dusk has fallen over my life, and there’s no telling when it will lift again. And if and when it does, it will only be because I will have seen through the haze a glimmer, however faint, of the perpetual light that I pray to God must shine on you.
In a few more minutes it will be midnight, and it will be November 7, the cherished date you came to us twelve years ago exactly to the day. On behalf of the disconsolate of your own flesh and blood, my heart sings out to you the fondest “HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
But before I turn in for the night, in another vain effort to meet you once again if only in dreams, allow me to scrawl our own reminder: ON NOVEMBER 7 OR EVER, DON’T FORGET US, KARINA.
Goodnight, my lovely Princess cherished deathless Muse, Heaven’s sweet Angel. May you and your prayers keep watch over us.
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