Three winning submissions that showed the life they wanted to live or even, the life that could have been.
Doing one’s obituary can be rather difficult, but when a call to write came out to pen a creative obituary, Yale-NUS College students jumped on the opportunity to do it. The call to write came from Yale-NUS College’s Writers’ Centre to “write a creative obituary about the life you want to live or the life that could have been or the life you almost lived.”
The three winning submissions were then revealed at the art, science and innovation symposium in April called “Meaningful Endings/Purposeful Aging” by Modern Aging Singapore. They also received a cash prize of $25 to $50 and a mystery book.
Here are the three winning submissions:
GABRIEL IBASCO (July 6, 1996 – April 4, 2017)
Gabriel Ibasco died on April 4, 2017, at the age of 20, in the solitary winter of New Haven, Connecticut. He was born elsewhere, in the perpetual summer of Manila, Philippines, on July 6, 1996 to a middle-aged couple who showered him with love in all its heteronormative excess. He spent the next 20 years smiling as he hid Barbie dolls in his pants, covering pink with blue, and dabbing discrete dots of red lipstick under his wrists. But all smiles fade, and alas, Gabriel’s secrets are what tore him apart from within.
He is survived by Gabriel, born on April 4, 2017 in the exact spot where her predecessor died, in the solitary winter of New Haven, Connecticut. In the brief moment where one life decayed and another one bloomed, she mourned for her namesake. But all frowns fade, and alas, Gabriel’s secrets are what pieced her together from within. She spent the next year smiling as she wore Barbie doll skirts to class, covering blue with pink, and dabbing delinquent dots of red lipstick on her cheeks.
“Prior to writing my obituary, I conceptualised death as something that was necessarily physical and something to be afraid of. And truthfully, I think death is something that we are bound to fear, but it doesn’t always have to turn out badly depending on what part of yourself you are letting go. My obituary is a queer narrative, more specifically, a transgender narrative. In this short piece, I discuss the experience of transitioning as something that involves an old self ‘dying’ to be replaced by a new one. I’ve been living a new life ever since I socially transitioned, so it definitely feels like a part of myself – my boy self, in particular – has died to give way for something better in the future. Death doesn’t always mean the end of life.” – Gabriel Ibasco, 21
I am saddened to announce that Shenali Wijesinghe passed away on January 12, 2009.
She’ll be remembered for the way her wide eyes swallowed and suckled on the world, till the sun blossomed orange on her gums when she grinned.
Some suspected she was never really real, after being spotted spouting light at 2am because she swallowed some fireflies. Somehow, the light stayed till the very end.
The doctors said the world started to let her go when the stories started to dissolve.
Stories had always lived and propagated in her belly, her whispering excitedly to nobody in particular about humans with tails. But when she first watched a plastic-father scream at a half-alive mother, and then a first became many and many became multiple, till the mother cut herself up on the concrete, Shenali shuddering at the flowers that bloomed in the warmth of fresh blood – they disappeared.
The world was apparently all eggshells and her clumsy feet with those pink-fuzzy-Hello-Kitty socks couldn’t make it through – and then the fireflies escaped through her crevices and flew, flew away to warmer bodies because she was dying.
I buried her in the hollows of my bones, floating somewhere in the marrow.
“I think my thought process when writing this really was about me realising how we all live and die whilst existing. To live is one thing and to exist is another, and I believe existing itself is an interloping of both living and dying, where parts of us sometimes die with age, but new things always grow to replace the old.
We are never static – bits of us settle into the dirt and some come alive, still shimmering with amnion. This prompt reminded me of the bits of myself I buried underneath the soil and the things that grew in the spaces.
I think sometimes, when we look at the end of the tunnel, everything seems a whole lot smaller and less grand and, truly, that can be a good thing, don’t you think?”– Shenali Wijesinghe, 18
Mehul Banka, 1996-2015
Mehul Banka passed away at the young age of 18, while having lunch with a professor at Yale-NUS College.
Mehul was born with the divine square-root-shaped birthmark on his left knee. This mark, as tradition tells us, is a sign of mathematical genius. At 16, he gave economics a real shot and emerged with the commemorated title of ‘class topper’ – a title that stuck with him through his life and brought much joy to his close ones and to him.
Professor Truelove conveyed that he died choking on his food when she regretfully asked him the insidious question – “Why economics?” In his dying moments Mehul shook restlessly in his seat, going through all his life decisions, repeatedly shouting just one word – why!
His unfortunate, untimely death is a timely reminder that questions are dangerous things. Every time we feel them in our system we must remember to sit in a half-lotus and jump 15 times while maintaining the posture. Any question then is forced out of our bodies as we regain our peaceful selves. The path of questioning is full of thorns and is really a path away from following where our true self takes us.
“Obituaries are someone else’s perspective of your life. Writing one for myself was a reminder that my life story can be twisted and turned in different ways by different people to fit their own purposes – some good, some not so much. As such, there really isn’t any point in living to please others. The only control I have over my life and death is how I perceive it.
Death is a strange topic for me. I feel that each time I make a decision that has enough potential to alter my life course, I leave a part of me behind. My values and beliefs have changed drastically throughout my life, making it hard to know what the connecting thread is between all these different versions of myself. Perhaps it is the entity that is making the decision to leave a part behind, watching it die, that is undying.” – Mehul Banka, 21