Lesson #2: “Our ultimate worry is not death, but how we die. Because death is certain, how we die is uncertain. And it is, to me, worrying.” 

PELNI has been a savior to many Indonesians wishing to move from one island to another in a more affordable way. 

This time, this state-owned shipping company saved me when neither fast boats nor flights to Banda operated. Bad weather has been an issue at this time of the year. But the mighty PELNI ships – the big ones, especially – have been relentlessly fighting waves and currents in these deep waters. 

Death is certain

Memento mori or remembering death is the reason why I frequently spent reflective time at graveyards, tombs, ruins, or, in Banda case, the Dutch burial slab like this one.

Just as I’m aboard the ship, a middle-aged man approached me. He started typical small talks one should master living in Indonesia. About bad weather. And how it killed people, including him. Well, almost. 

“Don’t worry. Death is certain,” he said with a serious look. 

There it was, without me asking him anything, he sent me a rather dark motivational quote. As he went on with stories about his seafaring portfolio, I, unsurprisingly, started to listen to him more attentively. 

“Now, what is uncertain, and one that you should ask God for is how and when we die,” he continued. 

To him, ‘when’ is not about an exact date or year; it’s about the completion of a life mission. To him, it would be when his five sons and daughters successfully graduate from college. 

The ultimate worry

You don’t find two strangers intimately sharing their feelings about death every day.

“And what about the how?” I probed. 

He pondered, carefully picking his words. 

“I don’t see any better way of dying than having my wife next to me, reading me holy scripts that would help me die easier,” he said. 

His words took me to 24 August 2007, 5 PM. It was when my mom did what the old man wished for to my late dad. 

I hope that’s how my dad wanted to die. I wasn’t sure; I haven’t had the chance to talk about this with him. 

“Thank you. I am glad I can talk about this,” he patted my back before excusing himself to his deck. 

Facing the dark sea and starless sky, I couldn’t help but ask the same question, “If I worry about how I would die, does it mean I don’t trust God with his plan?” 

I don’t know His plan for me. So, that leaves me a right to worry, right?