Dead at 47

“Dead at 47″

The Philippine Star, Monday, August 6,2007
by: Cito Beltran

The news about death when heard from a child is so crippling. Perhaps it’s their innocence, the sound of helplessness or maybe because as adults we want to shield children from ever realizing how painful death can be for those left behind.

Death often reminded me of “our” future appointment during my godless days. I would realize his unwelcome impatience after surviving a handful of “accidents” or unappreciated display of anger and violence from cretins.

But last week as I went to pick up my daughter she blurted out that her schoolmate had to go home very early because her father died that morning.

He was dead at age 47. Some think he was younger. It was his second heart attack in about two months but this time it was massive and it was fatal.

My first reaction was to think of the poor little girl, her pain, her loss.

The principal who was much younger than me had the painful task of explaining death to a grade 3 student. Half the time they were all just crying. In the company of a child that has just lost a parent no one can be exempted from tears.

For me, this “untimely” death was an unnecessary reminder of the consequences of being a parent much later in life. You want to be there for all her important life events; her first word, her first tooth, first crush, graduations, her debut, her marriage and if God would be so kind maybe her first birthing.

But having a six-year old at 51 is like stretching everything so thin and to the limit. You never know when things will snap. You just hope you manage to hold on.

My friend who is 66 probably has it worse. He has a 7-year old daughter and several companies to run. I try to tell him to spend more time with his family because the titles and the dollars will give cold comfort to a young woman who grows up without a father. No mall can sell her memories.

No business will ever give him back time as dividends for the life time he gave away to his companies.

They send flowers, Mass cards, and the Mandatory death benefits and profit shares. They never pay extra for time taken from family, and you never get compensated for work related damage such as strokes and heart attacks.

You have medical benefits so that the company does not have to pay a huge sum for the illness they gave you. Companies are not kind just smart.

But this is not all about death. It’s really about how the next generation seem to be killing themselves in spite of the fact that they’re suppose to be a lot smarter, a lot more health conscious and better informed.

My friend Willie and I come from the “Fat is great” upbringing. Early in our lives we were taught that a great meal was measured in volume and quantity. Good food was one that made you younger because it would kill you from fat content.

What we lacked in wisdom we made up for by regularly refueling our brains with edible and combustible alcohol. Our sense of risk and adventure were marked by a generational talent of knowledge and acquisition of pharmacological wonders. But now we know better, we only do the fat when the wife is not looking! The other bad habits God took care of!

So how come we’ve managed to outlive some of the “smarter generation”? Why are the 47ners and below kicking the bucket in spite of better diet, more exercise and the absence of alcohol and drug abuse.

For a generation that is so familiar with the word “Chill” it is disturbing to discover that these guys don’t pay much value to the concept of R&R otherwise known as Rest and Relaxation. No, it’s not Rest & Recreation nor is it Rest and Procreation. The word is Relaxation.

The 47ners have been made to believe that “Time is money” and “Communication is opportunity while lack of communication is Risk.” They so embrace the idea of being on-line 24/7 in spite of the fact that most of them are never even on time. They are OCs (Obsessive/Compulsi ve) operating on CPA (Constant Partial Attention).

There is an apparent confusion of definitions. The 47ners mistake Intensity for Passion, Provision for Parenting, Recreation for Relaxation, Drive for Commitment, Tenure for Loyalty.

My cousin who is fast approaching this generation has held more jobs at senior management level than the number of countries I have visited. In his mind he actually thinks that makes him super smart, exceptionally skilled and highly desirable for head hunters. I simply call him a candle lit on both ends and doing a good job of burning out.

His generation does not seem to comprehend the notion of a decade in the same company. It’s usually the 4 or 7 year itch that leads them to seek “New Challenges” rather than “making an impact” or “creating a legacy”.

They are achievers, constantly exposed to the stress on new environments and new challenges. They live by the highest and often most expensive expectations and declarations of society. Because of this, they have mortgages, car loans, educational plans that demand compensation packages you would have to be willing to kill for or die for.

Society places such a pressure for women to be married and to have children but in the competing market place, those who manage to have both, end up having a partner more than a spouse. Their parents or their househelps become witness to their children’s firsts: first word, first walk, and first tooth while the real parents become their children’s second option.

Rather than die trying to be successful, we ought to think about what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote on success:

“How do you measure success”

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a redeemed social condition, or a job well done; To know even one life has breathed because you lived – this is to succeed.”

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