I come from a mix-cultural family. My grandmother was a Muslim (a Maguindanaoan of royalty) while my grandfather was pure Chinese, both from my mother’s side. They raised a big family and allowed the children to grow independently. Since my grandfather married into royalty, he adopted Islam but was never quite into it. The children grew up more solid in Islam at the start, but as they grew their beliefs changed. And this is where my story really begins.
Uncle Pin and Boy – Smart & Godless Men
I had two uncles who were a study in contrast: Uncle Pin was a smart and fastidious senior captain of his time who traveled the world in his heyday and always regaled us with his sea adventures; on the other hand, Uncle Boy was a simple farm boy who was good with plants and loved to roam the estate barefooted. Both were very strict and disciplined; I remember being scolded at such a young age when I insisted playing with friends outside the house.
They were confirmed bachelors until the day they died. They couldn’t imagine being tied down to a nagging wife and wailing children. Uncle Captain would always tell me to remain single as he did so I didn’t have to worry about leaving anybody behind. The idea actually appealed to me sometime but wore out when I began dating and eventually married my husband. But my brother took this advice to heart and was a bachelor when he died a few years ago.
They were excellent wordsmiths. I remember that my brother and I would always be given pop quizzes on grammar and spelling every time they went to visit us. I retained most of my learning in grammar and spelling from their pop quizzes than my English classes in school combined.
They were both confirmed atheists until the very end. If their intelligence wasn’t enough, their minds simply could not accept how God could let anything bad happen to people, when He was essentially good. In my youth I never had the courage to challenge them in their convictions. They were voracious readers, surely they loaded up on reading to arrive to THAT conclusion?
How the mind of an atheist works
But that is just the thing about atheists. They rationalize everything, and what they cannot prove or answer by reason and logic they simply dismiss altogether. They explain human existence from the view of human thinking, that we started from a single cell then worked our way up to becoming homo sapiens through a process of evolution and elimination. To an atheist’s mind, we are a product of one big cosmic accident.
In my encounters with my uncles, that was how they viewed creation, with God out of the equation. “How can God allow this?” my Uncle Pin used to say, referring to human suffering. “God cannot be a good god, if there was any,” my other Uncle Boy would assert. I asked one of them on one occasion, “who do you think made all these (creations)?” All I got was a curt reply: “Read your Science books. It’s all there.”
During a dark time when my own faith was tested, I almost had the same reason. I went to a university known for its radical thinking, I learned the works of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Bertrand Russell, among others. I was also dabbling into another religion which is supposed to bring me to heaven but ended up hitting a hard blank wall. Nothing came close to the truth.
I recall the words of a known Carmelite saint, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: “Anyone desiring the truth is really looking for God, whether they know it or not” (incidentally, St. Teresa Benedicta was also an Atheist in her youth but experienced a conversion which led her to embrace the Catholic faith). I was looking for the truth but never came close to it. That is when I made my journey back to the Faith.
A dark and bleak end
When my Uncle Boy suffered a stroke, he had to be transported to Manila and was under my mother’s care for a short while. In the number of times I watched over him I tried to talk to him about spiritual matters, to believe in God and return to His good graces. There were times that he almost gave him, but was never fully convinced in God’s mercy. He said he would convert if he was completely healed. That was the last time I spoke to him. He was brought back to the province a few weeks later where he died, despondent and unhappy.
Uncle Pin had it much worse. I was not at his bedside when he passed on, but my mother was. She prayed at his bedside as he was heaving his last few moments, and was hard of breathing throughout the ordeal. He was at the point of death, and on all accounts he was restless and groaning that people beside him were shaking in fear of something unseen. It was a difficult death and everybody who was there saw it. I was deeply saddened to receive the news of their passing, years apart from each other.
The Last End
Was it a good death? Nobody knows for sure but one can always pray he died in the grace of God. For those of my family members who witnessed their passing, it is a grim reminder to us to remember their glorious and even colorful lives—only to leave in darkness towards the end of their lives.