Long arm of COVID-19
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - April 29, 2020 - 12:00am

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has very long arms. It not only has seized by the neck almost every country on earth, it has taken its devastating toll across the entire demographic landscape of the world. There is almost not a single aspect of life as we knew it that the disease, or at least our fear of it, has not changed and changed drastically.

 Last Sunday, my father-in-law finally surrendered to a long and lingering illness. He has fought his heart problems with quiet and dignified strength, which he drew in large part from the deep mutual love he shared with his wife and to some degree from the maintenance medicine that can only keep him going for so long. But the inevitable always prevails and eventually his old heart finally called it a day, in the morning of a Good Shepherd Sunday.

That I have to make it a point to emphasize that he died from a long and lingering illness underscores what I said about how this pandemic has changed our lives. Before the pandemic, disclosures about how a person died were made mostly as a matter of course, to fill the need for info, to satisfy curiosity. To the rich who guarded their privacy jealously, such information was usually couched in polite vagueness.

But in this time of the great pandemic, any death not attributable to COVID-19 is put flush forward as if it is a badge of honor, or at the very least, a great source of ironic relief. That is the reason I made it a point to stress that my father-in-law lost his battle against a long and lingering illness. Thank God his passing had nothing to do with COVID-19 or it would have been very stressful and challenging, not to mention potentially dangerous.

But emphasizing a non-COVID-19 death is just one of the many ways this disease has changed our lives drastically. For example, the wake for my father-in-law had to be voluntarily restricted to immediate family and close friends because of quarantine and social distancing requirements. Private Masses cannot be held. Loved ones locked down somewhere cannot come. Burials had to take place as soon as possible.

My father-in-law was half the reason why I have now been rooted in Leyte for more than a year, having to help the wife care for two ailing elderly parents, now reduced to only one. We buried my father-in-law yesterday, just three days after he died, mainly because there was no one to await but also because long wakes were discouraged, and a curfew always putting pressure on everyone not to tarry longer than necessary.

Those who could not come to pay their respects made do by sending messages of condolence and helping us through these difficult times with truly appreciated assistance. It is this sense of reaching out with love, comfort, and assistance that I think even COVID-19 could not contaminate, overwhelm or kill, now or whenever.

Certain traditions and even requirements had to be done away with because of this pandemic. But there are also indomitable strengths in who we are as a people that makes us survive with our self-respect and dignity intact. And so to everyone who crossed the great COVID-19 divide to be with us, our sincerest thanks. Even the long arms of COVID-19 cannot push back human ties far enough to render relations meaningless.

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