The greatest equalizer in life is death

Last 11 November, which happened to be my birthday, a dear relative and close friend Myrna Montealegre Torres passed away midmorning.

The news filled me with such deep sorrow because we were schoolmates in Marinduque and I followed her successful career and charmed life as she moved from one success to the next.

A great educator, she established the St. James school system with her husband. She even became mayor in Iloilo and became a very successful leader.

But why do I write about Myrna’s death for today’s column? Because it hit me that no matter how wealthy and successful, we become, when death claims us, we die like everybody else — even royalty, mighty kings and queens, presidents of countries, billionaire and corporate leaders
— everyone dies and no one can stop it.

How do we define death? According to Wikipedia, “Death is the irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a human being which stops the brain and the brainstem.” 

Brain dead is often used as the legal definition of death.

Last Wednesday, my youngest sister Maria Juana and I had a wonderful discussion over a delicious lunch, of this topic with Bingo Tan and his doctor nephew Wilson Yap, a rheumatology expert who shared with us his deep knowledge of the human body.

Wilson shared that death is the ultimate mystery in the whole history of mankind, where no one of us will ever find out where our body goes after we breath our last.

That is why he says that many people become spiritual when they get older as religion fills a vacuum in the heart and mind which keeps them going.

Existential death stops everything. Nothing continues and it is through religion that we gravitate to — to find answers to this deep mystery.

To many of us, death is a sad experience because it separates the living from the loved one. As this is a permanent end, we endeavor to keep the memory of the dead through tributes, writing their life story, or establishing a foundation to continue the advocacy of the deceased in honor of their loving memory.

To quote the Bible (John 11: 25-26), “Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

To those of us who continue to live fruitful and meaningful lives, let us be inspired by those who have gone ahead of us like Myrna Montealegre Torres, whose life continues to live in the hearts and minds of her beloved children who have all become very successful in their respective careers and the men and women who have studied in the St. James schools who continue to be inspired by her values and the lessons she has shared through a life well lived.

The author is one of 100 Most Influential Global Filipinas for her books and advocacy work. She was recognized as one of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS). As a social historian she has written 45 coffee table books in the last 25 years found in select libraries around the world.