My affinity with death began early in life. This photograph is proof of that.

My father took this photo of us kids one Sunday afternoon. I must have been around nine years old here. How many children do you know would find joy climbing trees in an American Cemetery, now known as the American Battle Monument (ABM)? As early as five years old, the ABM was my playground on weekends. We would drive from Quezon City where we lived, all the way to Fort Bonifacio where the ABM was located. My dad would then let me loose in the park and let me run to my heart’s delight. Back then, the guards were not as strict. Only the burial grounds with the white crosses were off limits.

I always looked forward to these weekend outings. I never found it odd that just a few meters from where I would be playing were the remains of thousands of American soldiers who had died in World War II.

At around the age when this photo was taken, I also developed a fascination for the obituary. After reading the comics section, I would go to the obituary and look at who passed away that day. Whenever I saw a familiar name, I would tell my dad or mom, “Mr so and so died the other day. He was 65 years old. His wake is at so and so. Are you going to visit?” My father found this obsession with the dead really strange. He said to me one day, “You’re like an old person but you’re only 10 years old! Why do you like checking out who died?”

I never really understood why I was fixated on reading the obituary (after laughing my head off reading the comics section). It was a thing for me all the way until college. Later in life, I wished that they would write up obits the way they did in the US where even if you didn’t know the person, just by reading a well written obit, you would get a glimpse of the life they lead, the impact they had on their communities, and the loved ones they left behind.

Now, when I look back, I’d like to believe that even early on, God had already planted the seeds in my little heart ❤️ for the bereaved. That even as a young girl I would find the courage to sit with death, and not fear it. And then in the years between childhood and adulthood, God allowed several life changing losses to further strengthen my heart.

Now I live in an area that gives me a glorious view of the ABM. Each time I look out my window, I am reminded of those carefree days, of my father, and of the brevity of life. And of how my life’s mission was given to me unknowingly as a little girl who loved to climb its trees many, many years ago.

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