She folded her hands upon her bosom, this four-year old child of mine and as her breathing became more labored, prayed as I led her: “Jesus. You love little children: help me!” that was at midnight on November 28, 1932. A few minutes later, she had joined the angels and left us in anguish that numbered all feelings. But t have since risen from the depths to which Sonia’s death crushed me, and phoenix- like have left my dead ashes, to sing the charms that the death of one so dearly loved can bring to the soul. I have known the darkness of occasional brooding, but I would dwell most upon a struggle with sorrow that has sweetened my nature, which otherwise, would have been stultified by the pain.
Pain, I have realized, is beautiful only when one can rise from its depressing power. I have known the people who have become bitter and cynical under the lash of sorrow, and I have known some who have never recovered from anguish. My experience is important only so far as it may help others towards growth: it is worthless to me if it implies vanity. Sonia is, to me, as fairy tale told or a lyric half lost in fancy, a delicate melody unsung. Had she grown into full womanhood, she might have become an intellectual, for she was deliberate and clear- cut in her language, precise in her reasoning, and keen in sensing nuances which matured minds about her could not appreciate; then, I should have been forever lost, the glamour of its poetry never felt even in vague suggestions, and the delicate melodies never perceived.
As a friend suggested to me when grief was most oppressive: “you shall always remember her as a child. “How beautiful I felt it was! What a beautiful things a man perceives in such sorrow! What keen and living poetry! For nothing but poetry could give such feeling. In such a moment reason would have destroyed me with consummate triumph; for if I had tried to explain why God had snatched away from me the things I loved best in life, I would have allowed reason to rob me of reason. But poetry in all her magnificence came sailing behind the somber shape of sorrow to show me the way to a more beautiful, more full and more nearly perfect life.
Sonia shall always live in my memory as a child who wonders why the star shine in the sky and the rain drops from heaven and the grass on the wayside: as a child who find all things pure and true in her innocent eyes. I shall look in those eyes and see so much confidence and faith when I feel that I am losing my own faith and confidence I shall draw from my memory of her a child’s enthusiasm for life, when my heart is heavy and my eyes dim with age. This is my ideal, to see the whole life with a mind mellowed by age, though a heart forever young – wise and happy! Days before she died, I had a premonition to her death; but I dismiss it, consoling myself with the thought that if such a thing should come to pass -heaven forbid – I should perhaps be rewarded for becoming a true, sincere and humble artist through the suffering that would come from such a shocking experience.
For the first time in my life, the idea of becoming an artist suddenly lost in its chance. I would rather remain obscure than lost its greatest masterpiece, wrought in my own blood, and polish by the greatest love that I was capable of giving. Like the reeds in the river, I would rather keep my leaves and flowers that be cut up by the great Pan into the flute. The melody of the wind was enough for me as I bent rhythmically with its blowing. I would refuse the greater melody of art that exacts so much. But when her hour came the blade of death cleave my heart, I felt as if I, too, had died and a new soul had emerged, more beautiful, because cleanse of all bitterness.
How true it is as poor Oscar Wilde wrote that, the “Pleasure is for the beautiful body, but pain for the beautiful soul.” But what costly knowledge this first. Experience has indeed taken away more than it has been able to give. It has suddenly occurred to me that the real artist is measured by his ability to utilize misfortune in recreating the soul.
I say, “recreating” Because art is the recreation of life an experience, into that which sooths and ennobles the soul; if a man with any artistic pretensions allows sorrow to destroy him, he is a mere artisan, incapable of producing anything of worth; for, the first thing an artist must recreate, before true art can be realized, is his own soul. Moreover, sorrow must crush, ere it can reshape the man in s mold of glory. The reed must have cut to pieces, and holes bored through it, before it can have produced such magic melodies as their sound. The sun on hill forgot to die.
And the lilies revived, and the dragonfly
Came back to dream on the river.
Before an artist can sweetly harrow the hearts of others, his own must have died. There is a story told of an ambitious singer who thought he would sing for the grand operas. He sang before a celebrated maestro who, in the middle of an aria from Rigoletto, thundered out, “Enough! Enough! This will never do. Your heart has been broken!” In De profounds, Oscar Wilde, made the following analysis of sorrow in its beginning upon art: Truth in the art is the unity of a thing with itself; the outward rendered expressive of the inward; the soul made incarnate; the body instinct with spirit. For this reason there is no truth comparable with sorrow. There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth.
Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy (overdo) the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and the birth of a child or a star there is pain.” Indeed, was it not Zeus’ head split open an axe that Athena might spring full grown from it? Besides sorrow’s power of giving birth to art, there is another blessing, which must come, with all art and all of suffering? It is a way of thinking that solidifies and satisfies, becomes profound and permanent; a real philosophy of life and is therefore, a creation, an art itself, and not the mere adoption of some powerful, second-hand outlook that proves worthless when put to the test.
Feeling that the lower forms of logic would be useless to me at the time of my deepest sorrow, 1 approached life by the highest route, through “the deepest voice of human experience” religion. Early the next morning after Sonia’s death, Gods hand rested upon my shoulders. On previous occasions, the more suggestion of her death would drive me into imagining a sudden flight to some distant land. I knew not where, for an obscure place where I might forget to die. But that morning, I felt strangely calm. Not the remote shades of thought about running away from my sorrowing family
Who never ate his bread in sorrow? Who never spent the midnight hours-Weeping and waiting for the morrow He knows you not, ye heavenly Powers.
Lived inky memory
I had eaten my bread in sorrow
I had passed the right weeping and watching for a
More bitter dawn
And felt the touch of the Spirit
Upon my being
I went to the scorch of St. Ignatius in Intramuros where, humbled by sorrow, I sought the Lords forgiveness of the confessional. I offered up my Sonia, and also my two other boys, and even my own life. If He desired to take back his own. The pagan protest that was surging in my boson, I painfully quelled. It is different to give up the things we hold dear on earth. But when Sonia, whom I loved best, had been given up, to what could be resigned, I felt that grown generous to magnanimity. I had ceased to find difficulty in giving up my pride, and I was humbled; I had ceased to fear for my future, and I was no longer in vain _ I gave up all notions of fame, and became myself. But I was better, I was born to greater realization of truth, a fuller feeling of freshness -my new philosophy doubtless has given me a new sense of values.
The things I had held dear, in common with other people. I discovered to be a glittering tinsel and hollowness. We find ourselves only after we have lost everything we hold dear in our temporal habitation; we find our soul only after we have divested ourselves of all the flummery of the flesh. For indeed, how can we find our souls when we are wrapped up in matter, so that we cannot give a step, or put our hand, or lift up our eyes, but material things are all about us, following us even to put up our dreams.
People say something pleasant to us, and thought it be but “hot air”, it is enough to puff us up. We would feed our souls upon vanity, and know not it is Barmecides feast. Could we strip ourselves of pride and vanity, things would fall back into their proper places, and we should see the hidden harmony of creation, and piece through the things that alone are seen of the world to those that are unseen, setting no store be these fascinating shadows, ever before the time when they crumble away and vanish into naught, as worldly things must, sooner or later. The Worldly Hope men set their hearts upon
Turn ashes – or it prospers; and anon
Like snow upon the Desert’s dusky Face,
Lightning a little hour or two – was gone.
The climax in this grand ascend of sorrow is the perfection of Reality when in moments of devastating grief, my being seemed consumed. I tried to deceive myself by pretending that it was all a dream and would wake up to find Sonia’s death a mere fancy, the force illusion would always vanish and a newer, more vivid, more convincing, more permanent if painful realization would reveal to me that the whole of human experience this side of eternity is nothing but a dream which with death, finally comes to an awakening to the only reality intended by the Maker of Life.
I am convinced that life in this temporary habitation is a vague and miserable dream, a nightmare in which the dreamer is driven from one path to another, now frightened by life, now terrified by the thought of death; until one realizes that there is this nightmare a symbol of Reality that is coming with the dawn and the awakening. This realization of the reality must make a real artist of a man. Broken with pain, the soul dies to be reborn, stronger and more beautiful; enriched and ennobled by sorrow, the artist in the man rises above himself; shorn of all fineries and pettiness – all none – essential, in a word, the artist flows naturally towards the infinite whither all artistic effort must be directed.
Thither must I direct my art … Art to me had ceased to be artful and artificial. It had become the natural life of the soul; it is the voice of my soul crying out to heaven for a vision of Sonia, pleading for a final communication with her. I shall remove everything about me. When the last word is written and my hands drop limp and lifeless by my side. I hope to hear the gentle pattern of a little feet and the tender touch of a little hands around my neck…SONIA.