The diaries of the dying are the thoughts of the living
A person I knew died this week.
Another person brought their online posts to my attention. He looked sick, this other person said.
A series of prayers and expressions of gratitude filled her online space. Fruits, food and medicine were delivered to him. These gifts and words of encouragement he accepted were enough to heal him.
Between these photos of food supplements, cough suppressants and vitamins, he shared the temperature readings from his thermometer. It was all low grade fever.
This continued, I believe, until the morning there was a selfie of him now fitted with a tube connecting to an oxygen.
As fate and privilege would have it, a doctor friend was monitoring his status at the local hospital. It was Friday, he was admitted; Saturday, the doctor who treated him had added the word “critical” to his case. The same day he had a heart attack. It was early evening when I called a friend to tell him that I am using this prayer book for Saint Joseph, which he shared with me. This friend then said, yes, I will pray for his recovery as well.
By the time we finished our prayers, a message came from our doctor friend telling us that he already expired.
I use the word, expire, because the real direct word on death is always difficult to pronounce. In fact, our doctor friend used this word – death. But, like many of us, we rarely use this word.
My story is not unique; in fact, for many of you reading this story, you might as well have the same experience when this virus hit your family or your circle of acquaintances and friends.
Reading the word “death” causes you to pause, not to think but simply to stop. This verb has a command that urges things, objects, and events to cease. An event has ended; a process is concluded. Life, like a game, is over.
In an accident, which is another way of dying quickly, we don’t stop breathing when the news reaches us. There is immediate anger against the one who caused the death. There is someone – something to blame: a machine falling on a person, a capsizing boat, waves so big they swallowed everyone, a car that goes so fast and a driver who wouldn’t even care. not to stop.
Contrary to how we always feel about not being able to predict an accident, we can always face its foolishness, its complete lack of foreboding, its lack of warning. The speed with which life is ripped away from a living entity when in the morning that person was strong and in the pink of health is in itself a reason we are not allowed to deny. Accidents are accidents; they came with our birthright.
With a debilitating illness, we have a lot of time to think about healing, to be aware of what we can do for loved ones who are currently suffering from a particular illness. Terminal afflictions, for all the sorrow they bring to those who actively observe the progressive weakening of a body, do not end our humanity, as we grow stronger in hope and open to it. ‘imponderable, like miracles.
But the death of a virus that seems to be seeping around us, entering our bodies without our knowing it, with no sign that a pact between living and dying has already been sealed, is another matter. We learn to face it – the virus as the most personal emblem of this disease and the pandemic, which is the grand and monumental picture of how the human group succumbed weak and helpless in the face of contagion and contamination. . But we don’t learn.
Maybe learning isn’t even the right word, but pretending – how an individual in a matter of days can quickly go through coughing, breathing deeply, and then – intubated – waiting for a death sentence. Doctors can assure the patient that there are drugs available and that they will do whatever they can. And yet, at some point, they would hook the person up to tubes and, as those who had been through this stage would say, would fight for survival even as you were suspended between losing your heartbeat and catching your breath.
Then death comes quickly. Forget the 14 or 15 days because they don’t matter. These are days when the fever does not subside, the headache occurs and the cough is incessant and nasty, and the senses of taste and smell disappear. After that, there are only two ways to proceed: recover or die.
Not to die, but, this time, to die. Then the dreams disappear and the plans vanish. The house is left unattended. The flowers decompose; books are left in the dust. The obligations are lifted. Your space in this world has been deleted.
The living take over. They begin their memories and their tributes, their memories always including their own graces and accomplishments with the person who died. The words, eloquent, eloquent and, oddly enough, never concise, because they are really for the living. The dead have no use for poetry and prose, come think about it. We the living are the ones who test our ability to assure those who have continued that we are able to remember, which is easy, and to love forever, which is most difficult.
We, in the saddest evolution of our human emotions, take it upon ourselves to try to continue the lives of people who have left even though it would be cruelty to us, destined either to survive this pandemic, and to continue. to live until our own stars willed us dead.
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Image courtesy of Jimbo Albano