In life, getting a second chance is a privilege not everybody can enjoy.
Was there a time in your life when you were given a second chance? How do you live your life differently? Or was there a moment when the doors of opportunities closed before you could even enter it? Truly, a second chance is not an option we can freely choose, but a gift that some of us may have been offered, but took for granted.
I will share two true stories of my friends and also classmates in their struggle for a healthier life at a very young age. These stories are about hope and defeat, optimism and despair, life and death. The stories are about two boys who were begging and dying for that second chance in life, but only one of them was granted that wish.
I was a high school sophomore when I met Francis. He was the new kid transferred from a prestigious school due to financial constraints. He and I were never close friends but we weren’t at odds either. We were simply two different personalities that just didn’t belong in the same circle. I was, and still am, very talkative and all over the place, bordering on delinquency. Francis was my polar opposite—he was quiet and modest and everything a well-behaved teenager was expected to be. He shined as a writer in the Media Club, while I relished being a diva in our Little Theaters Club. So, while we were very different, we did share one thing in common: we loved to write poetry.
It wasn’t until the final year of high school that I decided to step over that fence between us and actually get a chance to know him. To be honest, I had ulterior motives. He was our class president, and I had intended to befriend him to gain a bit of leverage and certain privileges—those with friends in power know what I mean. Politics, even in high school, works pretty much the same as it does in government. The last thing I needed during senior year was to get in trouble, and I knew being in the good graces of the class president would come in handy.
However, the more I got to know Francis, the more I realized that he and I weren’t so different after all. I had once thought of him as saintly and serious, so I surprised when I met the other side of him that was crazy, funny, and creative. It didn’t take long for us to become very good friends; we ate lunch together, shared jokes, worked on school projects, all the fun stuff.
And then halfway through the school year, we saw less and less of him. He was often absent, and that’s saying something since he always had perfect attendance. Being the curious cat and social butterfly that I was, I gathered our friends and we paid him a visit. However, he wasn’t at his home, and it was with a heavy heart that we found ourselves in front of a hospital room in Velez not long after.
You know that feeling when your gut drops to the floor, shaking your knees so you’d have to hold tight on to something to keep from buckling over? Like when your parents or your significant other tells you, “We have to talk.” That feeling of a rock stuck in your throat, and you want nothing more than to throw up. An anxiety attack. Multiply that a dozen times over. That’s what I felt as I opened that door. I saw Francis, but he wasn’t the Francis I used to know. He looked frail, vulnerable, and helpless. Remember when I told you to multiply that horrible gut feeling? Now, do that again. Because there are no words to adequately describe the horrible news. It’s strange how one word can shake your whole being, and make you question even your own existence. Leukemia. Francis had leukemia.
Cancer. Leukemia. Just one word, and a million questions generated across my mind. To this day, thinking about it still gives me chills. How could a young boy my age have cancer? Wasn’t cancer supposed to be a thing in soap operas only? Why him? Why did a sweet and kind boy get this disease when there are criminals, people who commit suicide, or wished for death willingly? Why couldn’t they get leukemia instead? If the good die young, then why be good? How is it fair that a diligent student might miss the chance of high school graduation after years of not cheating in school work and not skipping class? It was not fair, and I wasn’t handling the news well at all.
The anger and pity evident on my face dissipated when I saw that sparkle of hope in Francis’ eyes. He was hooked up to machines and was defenseless, but he still had fight left in him. I knew right then that he would graduate high school. And he did. On March 2005, I had the privilege to see Francis claim his honor’s medal, rightfully his. I saw tears on a lot of people’s eyes that day.
Sadly, that victory was short-lived. Two months after graduation, Francis bid us all goodbye. I can still remember it like it was yesterday—the sorrow on everyone’s face, especially his mother’s during the burial. Even the sky was miserable as it unleashed a fury of rain.
Had he been given that second chance, I know he would have been a successful certified public accountant in an auditing firm right now. He would have been one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines. He would have been my best friend for life.
After that experience, you would think I would have been scarred for life. I would start shutting off, and not get close to people. But I had faith, and I trusted that life wouldn’t be that cruel again.
In college, I met another boy named Will. Will was my classmate, and we were instant friends. He was intelligent; always on top of the Dean’s List; active in socio-civic group organizations like Greenpeace International and Save the Dolphins in Tanon Strait; joined the student government and various extra-curricular activities; and was the class’ future Summa Cum Laude. He was whom you would refer to as “that guy”—that guy whom everyone adores, that guy whom haters are jealous of… THAT guy.
The funny thing about unpleasant twists is they are always surprises. He was at the top of his game when he was forced to do a 180. It was a bright and sunny afternoon, the last year of college, and we were studying in Literature class. The healthy boy was rushed to the hospital due to a lung complication. He experienced hell as he underwent two major operations for a critical tension pneumothorax. Everything in his life changed as he added eight bags of transfused blood, 42 IVs, 10 x-ray examinations, a CT scan, and a bill worth almost half a million to his agonizing pain.
His chances of becoming Summa Cum Laude or seeing his parents happy to watch him receive that diploma were lost. His career goal to become a teacher was crushed. He would have to leave friends and family behind.
Then, once again, I saw his eyes. They held the same spark I saw in Francis’. Those eyes glimmered with hope, and the bargaining for God to give him a second chance. Those eyes said, “I am willing to be strong and undergo this process of healing to be able to make things right and make the right things.”
Luckily, God heard Will’s call and gave him a second shot to live life to the fullest. He was able to able to graduate college being the Most Outstanding Graduate with the highest point average in the whole graduating class, and a recipient of a leadership award. But the most important achievement of them all was that second chance in life, that not everyone was fortunately given. And now, Will has a bright career and future ahead of him. He is a licensed and professional teacher, a very loyal friend and son, almost graduating with a Masters degree, and most importantly God’s witness of his love, talking about how a second chance worked magic in his life. And most importantly, Will would never had a chance to write this blog entry if weren’t for the second chance given to him. Yes, I am Will, another alter ego of my bravery and hope just like the word means for itself.
Now, I will ask you again the questions I posed earlier on: “Was there a time in your life when you were given a second chance? How do you live your life differently? Or was there a moment when the doors of opportunities closed before you could even enter it?”
There will be instances in our life where we feel like a confused transient dwelling in a lost past, without a future, stuck in a constantly changing, meaningless moment. There will be moments when we feel like shards of shattered glass and frightened that these pieces would never be put together again. There will always be moments when we feel like we can no longer find where we left our soul, or our faith. We give up, lose hope, and wave our flags without even giving life a second shot or try. The realities of life are not a far different from my story and Francis’ struggle for second chance in a battle of despair, defeat, and death. What makes it more painful is the fact that we always forget that Life is the most fragile gift we are given and we often fail to see just how easily it can be taken away from us.
In both stories I shared to you, second chances are like lottery tickets; Francis and I both wanted to win the jackpot, but only one was fortunate enough to have it. But life offers us so many second chances and they are more like free passes in the movies or meal coupons in the restaurants that we most of the time ignore or choose not to avail.
So, the next time you see your enemy, husband, or brother asking for forgiveness, or your employee begging for a second chance to make things right, or a stranger trying to make friends with you, think about Francis and how he was denied of that second chance. Then, just when you are about to waste an opportunity at work like promotions, just look at me, just remember how privileged and lucky I am to have that second chance to take action and make my dreams happen.
Starting from this day forward, thank God you are still alive for many have died and are dying as I speak. You still have the opportunity to change and make things right while those who have died wished for that second chance.
(To Francis…you are deeply remembered and our prayers will always be for you.)
Want to know how WELL spend his second chance in life? Read more in his his ANIMAECIBUS (food blog) SHUTTER SPEED AND LIGHT (photo blog), OFF THE BEATEN TRACK (travel blog), and LITERARY JUNKIE (poetry blog).
Writer’s Note: I got the chance to deliver this speech in a Toastmasters meeting and in front of his grave to pay respect and show gratitude to how a friend made my life worth living. Thank you to my HS friend Samantha Costanilla for editing and making my story better.