We are all born not knowing and not thinking we are immortal. But by some divine plan, many come to know and to think they are immortal. Yet, many also learn to think they are only mortal and that there is nothing more to life than what is visible. Any hopes or wishes to prolong the joys, and less so the pains of life, fall in the realm of imagination. Blessed, however, are those who live and eventually face death knowing and thinking they are, in truth, immortal.
Yes, there is some irony in the last statement. Death seems to close all arguments against immortality or eternal life. But that is true only for those who never heard of a resurrection. Christians stand unique in the whole of human history as people who rejoice and even suffer because of that assurance.
For unless we come face to face with our own mortality, we will not try to hold on to the possibility or the certainty of eternal life. Seeing how some people face their own mortality inspires others to live life with greater courage and hope.
This is the great lesson one derives from having known Joel Castillo, whose struggle with cancer, brought about changes not only in his own life but also among those who knew him so well. A few months before learning he had cancer, he was still happily going about his role as father, as husband and as partner to Rose Tuazon- Castillo in their thriving LGO Company and social-outreach projects. One can sense the driving enthusiasm he had for adventure and fellowship with his beloved children, close siblings and intimate friends.
It seemed Joel had not enough time to savor the joy of living as well as the opportunity to spread that joy around to as many people as he could. Yet, he also had his missteps, as is always the case when we go about walking among many people. We all live in the middle of everything else; and whether we like it or not, we have to find the balance and strive to preserve our own identity.
Joel did achieve his own identity. Having gone through the difficult phase of proving who he was and what he could do, he eventually showed the kind of heart he had. Take, for instance, a time when some parents of their IROG scholarship program beneficiaries were complaining about not receiving what they expected beyond what had been promised. He said in frustration, “Some people are simply not satisfied with a little blessing and even expect you to give them more; and if you don’t, they get angry. But that is nothing compared to the joy of helping people in general.”
Indeed, such petty issues did not faze Joel and Rose from pursuing their noble task of blessing others through their good hearts. In the end, they found a way of spreading cheer and material assistance to many more people.
Yet, the time would come when the challenge of proving one’s identity goes beyond what you can do in life and into what life does to you. In Joel’s case, it was his ultimate battle with sickness. The many therapies and blood transfusions took their toll on his battered body. Yet, in spite of it all, his spirit remained indomitable. He put up a good fight. His ever-warm smile and firm voice never failed to prove it was the same old Joel who was in control of his path to his own destiny.
And so, even in his own departure from among our midst, he left behind his wishes for his family, for his friends and for himself – wishes which those of us who remain now have the opportunity to accomplish not just for him but also for those he treasured in life.
And so, when we bade farewell to Joel, the moment was made less tragic as heaven itself commiserated and poured both refreshing rain and renewing sunshine to celebrate his life with us. For such is mortal life: light and shadow, joy and pain, triumph and failure, life and death. But in the end, immortal life will prevail because faith in Jesus Christ gives us the victory.
From what we heard about his last moments, Joel made his peace with His Lord and humbly surrendered his fate into His hands. Young as he was in his short journey upon this Earth, his exemplary influence upon those who knew him well will remain and live on as his lasting legacy to the future generation.
Rose Tuazon-Castillo, the bereaved wife of Joel, extends her deep gratitude to those who had provided support for Joel’s financial, medical and emotional needs during his treatment. Knowing there were many people who joined them during the campaign for Joel’s recovery made the pain and anguish much more bearable.
And even now, for Rose, Jared, Jansen and Justin and Joel’s extended family, the loss of a beloved is greatly assuaged by the many souls who expressed how they were touched by Joel’s life.
Farewell, Joel: Till we meet again in that perfect place in our perfect form – spirit and body.