March has been a month for mourning, for Girlie and myself.

February 29, one of our closest friends, Horacio Boy Morales, died. He had been in coma for three months, following a heart attack.We still feel the aching void that he has left in our lives.

March 24, Nanay Flotie (Nanay Nene to others) “crossed over.”  The pain from an accidental fall 88 days earlier led to the discovery that she was suffering from renal failure. Last midnight, when the Villariba clan gathered after the Easter rites, we missed her motherly hosting of clan celebrations.

There were other deaths of family and friends in March, but these two dominate our minds and hearts.

Because of them, the annual ritual remembrance of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection has become very personal, existential.

During the wake of Nanay Nene, I overheard Girlie telling her friends: “There is one last lesson that Nanay taught us – how to die peacefully.” Not without pain, and not without moments of anxiety, but ultimately, with serenity.

The open channel that Girlie had to Boy Morales gave her insight into the pain that Boy was feeling, and also into his strong will to wake up and live. When his body finally gave up, his message to Bel and his children was typical BM: “I am sorry I had to leave you. I tried my utmost.”

During the quiet times that Girlie and I exchange what we feel about the death of Nanay Nene and Boy Morales, I experience the truth of a prison aphorism: “Sorrow shared is sorrow divided.” Can I say the same of the second part of the aphorism: “Joy shared is joy multiplied”?

Or similarly, “Hope shared is hope multiplied”?

We both continue to find meaning in religious rituals, and we both read and explore theological and spiritual themes, but Girlie and I share what we may describe as a “secular sensibility.”

It makes for interesting conversation, especially when we discuss death and life beyond death.

My preferred definition of theology is “fides quaerens intellectum” – faith seeking understanding. Girlie and I share a faith (or is it better to call it hope?) in life beyond death. But our secular sensibility, and our readings into neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, seek a different understanding of this faith and hope.

While listening to the priest’s sermon about Christ’s resurrection as the foundation of our faith, Girlie would sometimes whisper questions to me: “Is he talking of historical or biblical truths?”

Something else was occupying my mind – Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s critique of “cheap grace,” which I was correlating to “cheap faith.”

What does it mean to believe that Nanay Nene who just died, continues to watch over us, just like my Inay who died in 2009? What is the meaning of the image of Boy Morales traveling through vast galaxies, which flashed through Girlie’s mind?

It may be tempting to settle for satisfaction in the default mode of our received religious instruction. But I will continue to seek a deeper understanding, drawing comfort from the biblical passage that “we see now through the mirror, darkly.”

Happy Easter!

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