“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes” Benjamin Franklin once famously said this line.

But why humans expect to die if the body has self-healing mechanism? True, the body gets sick from time to time but eventually it recovers itself. Biology tells that when a cell dies, another cell substitutes. By this mechanism then, theoretically, humans can live forever.

But somehow the mechanism doesn’t work properly, or rather stop functioning, at certain age. The cells fail to replicate themselves and slowly death becomes theirs.

From a different view, it also seems unfair that the desire and longing for immortality is left for imagination only. Something humans can think of and yearn for but yet unrealisable and remain an illusion.

At least until the brightest minds and most adventurous of the world can discover the elixir of life and find the fountain of youth, which seems as elusive as death itself.

While at the same time, death becomes an enemy and an unwelcomed guest to the majority who love life. A guest who comes uninvited to the untold happy households and left them devastated when it leaves with their beloved.

People devastated not only because it is the father of some growing kids who still need his support, or single mother of equally growing kids who require her care, or the lovely husband or wife who loves each other passionately, or the brother or sister they love very much who dies. But it is also because of their shared memories together, for better or worse.

Then comes delicate and sensitive issues of healing this emotional side. What is the best way to lend emotional support to the bereaved if every experience is unique?

“She was a lovely and nice woman. A lady once told me this about her”, I called a friend upon learning that her sister just passed away. I don’t like comforting people who have just lost their love ones. Not because I don’t have any sympathy whatsoever. I simply can not feel the way they feel and thus can not find the right words.

I would rather shut up my mouth.

Selamat berduka cita for the passing away of your sister…” I hesitantly continued my word and then ended the call.

“Julitra, We don’t say ‘Selamat berduka cita’ to express condolences. We say “Turut berduka cita”. We normally say ‘Selamat’ to congratulate people such as for their marriage or graduation day.” I was corrected by a friend who was nearby and overheard me.

It was not funny as death itself.

(Jakarta, June 25, 2007. In Memoriam Y.B.)

Julitra Anaada:

Born and grew up in Talaud Islands, the northernmost, and one of the remotest, parts of Indonesia.

He earns living in Jakarta, the capital.

All posts are his own work, unless stated otherwise. For non-fictional piece, the opinions are strictly personal views.

He can be reached at julitra dot anaada at


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