Health And Family

Mourning in the time of COVID

PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez - The Philippine Star

Please, not during lockdown.” This was our silent prayer.  Don’t allow any situation where we would be forced to check into a hospital, and worse, suffer the tragedy of agony and death in such an isolated environment.

In the span of just five days, I was privy to three deaths in the family.

The first concerned an aunt who was already confined in a hospital for her routine dialysis that unexpectedly turned bad. She died alone because her children are all based abroad and were restricted from flying home to Manila.

Worse, under the COVID-19 ground rules, the remains of the departed are automatically cremated, as they exercise caution not to spread the virus or contaminate anyone.

At her cremation, only her caregiver and her driver were in attendance. The urn had to be brought home, where it will stay until the right time comes around for its proper inurnment.

The second concerned an in-law who has long suffered from cancer and resided in California. She was in remission thrice and underwent all the prescribed treatments and protocols to combat her illness.

When she felt that her time was nearing, her husband and children arranged with the hospital to allow them to go on shifts so they could watch and stay with her. When she gave up the ghost, she was surrounded by family, all praying for her beautiful journey home. The family was also allowed to have a one-day viewing of her remains, which they spent praying, celebrating holy Mass and walking down memory lane, reminiscing about the abundant and beautiful memories they made and shared through the years.

The third was another in-law who had all sorts of complications that compromised most of her vital organs. The doctor was able to make a house call when she couldn’t breathe and he advised the children to bring her immediately to the hospital. My in-law refused, declaring, in fact, “Over my dead body.”  She died peacefully surrounded by her husband and children.

When they called the funeral home to have her remains cremated, it was arranged without a hitch and in five hours, she was back in her house, in a marble urn.

In hindsight, her children concurred that it was right of their mother to have insisted she remain at home.  If she were hospitalized, it would have taken much longer to have any last arrangements made for her because of the COVID-19 protocol of distancing and quarantine.

In these recent deaths, the families faced unusual circumstances — physical gatherings were banned, vigils were not allowed and no burials were, either.

There was one grace, however, that illumined these grieving souls.

Each family initiated an Internet group chat so that relations and friends, wherever they were, could meet up. Every day, at the appointed time, for nine consecutive days, they gathered and prayed together, reminisced together, shared music and made photo collages to honor and keep the memory of their loved ones alive. They promised to go online again on the 40th day of her passing.

This online, virtual bonding renewed their faith and kept the heart consoled, bringing comfort where it was needed most. In the darkest of times, Someone up there made it right, for one and all. 

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