27 December 2011


Ian F. prepared lovely strawberry ice creams, topped with cherries, and he always greeted everyone with a joyful "Mate"! It must have been a Kiwi thing. He was also a deeply religious man. He always said goodbye by saying, "May today be better than good." He bid a final goodbye a little over twenty-four hours after All Souls' Day.

No one saw it coming. He'd felt a sudden piercing pain in his stomach early in the week, while jogging or walking, like something inside had burst. When it became clear that something was seriously wrong, Bing, the mother of Ian's gorgeous five-year-old boy, Josh, took Ian to the hospital. Or wherever it was they attended to the sick in the provincial municipality of Matalam, Cotabato, where they lived, or in Kidapawan City, which they neighbored.

I went to Ian's house for a visit a couple of months before his death. The town was rural and simple; it seemed to me like a place where unhappiness did not exist. (There are many such places in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao: beautiful, undiscovered, blessedly virgin, quite unlike Manila.) There, I had a delicious Filipino lunch. I admired the expansive vegetable garden. I dribbled an abandoned basketball. In the front yard, there was a wooden playhouse, and little Josh, who takes after his cheerful father, peered at me doubtfully through its cracks and openings, and I gushed, "How cute. Look at those hazel eyes."

At the hospital the doctors operated on Ian; cut him open. The next forty-eight hours brought forth a somber exchange of phone calls and text messages between Bing and Ian's friends, colleagues, fellow expats. Her last message read, "Please help me pray for Ian as he travels to the Great Beyond to meet his Creator.” Cause of death was renal failure. He was sixty-three.