Summer Is Over

By AZUCENA GRAJO-URANZA ©

(Editor’s Note: Eulogy read by Judith Batin at the Necrological Service, FEU University, Chapel 8 June 2005.)

Reading Jess’s obit in the Philippine Star, I realize that Jess and I really go a long way together. We both started as students, minor staffers of the FEU Advocate, and because of mutual interests we became instant friends.

We joined the FEU faculty at about the same time, wrote our stories, suffered the same angst, and sat in Anding Roces’s class, although not side by side, but at about the same time.

He joined the FEU faculty a year after I did, and we later shared the same dissatisfaction, the same heartbreak, went away together to teach at U.P., then came back to FEU together. We were together at Greenwich Village enjoying a whole opera season, and prowling around the New York City museums.

I will not speak here of Jess’s magnificent mind. I will not dwell on his accomplishments as a professor and writer. Better authorities than I, will do that, for he was known in the best circles of pedagogy, creative writing and literary criticism. I speak as a friend.

After I left FEU we were in constant touch by telephone and in my periodic visits to his bachelor’s pad on Recto Ave. And he was always my special host in the rare times I was in FEU.

The day before he fell ill, he called, and we stayed on the phone for almost two hours, reviewing our shared experiences starting from the time when we were FEU small fries. I reminded him that he would be late for classes, but he said he had finished with classes, the exams had been given. He said, “Summer is over.”

The meaning of his last words did not sink in until the next day. For that night he was taken to the hospital. I had the opportunity to send him my love and my birthday greetings on the 1st of June. He was awake then, and through his niece, Gugoo, he got the message and acknowledged it. That is my comfort, that at the last moment I was able to affirm to him that friendship that we shared for almost a lifetime.

Last March, I called him and told him I had a gift for him. It was a short story I wrote which I dedicated to him. It was published in the Free Press and when I called him to ask how he liked the story, he said he cried and wept over it. That was how our friendship was defined. We wrote stories about and for each other, maybe eternizing the moments of our angst, our friendship, and our shared experiences.

Jess died on a First Friday, not just another First Friday, but the Friday of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. And the next day was the First Saturday, not just an ordinary First Saturday, but the annual feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If you are a believer, and I know that Jess was a devout one, you will remember Mary’s promise that if you are devoted to her, she will personally escort you up to Heaven on the First Saturday after your death. In death, as in life, Jess was special to the Lord.

They say that you die as you live, and Jess’s going was but a mirror of his life-gentle, quiet, peaceful, surrounded by his loved ones.

But for us, yes, summer is indeed over. Jess has gone to a higher, brighter, more ethereal realm, while we stay here experiencing the end of summer, which he had brightened and illumined by his affection for each of us. He was an extraordinary person, life-giving, and loving everything and everyone he touched. In a time of hate and suspicion he was our lover; in a time of crass ignorance, he was our Prince. Like Hamlet’s Horatio we bid farewell and say “Good Night, Sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” ©

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