A T.O.L. post
In the past 12 months, I’ve sat through 5 wakes. When you’re with grieving family and friends, with a coffin in front of you, death becomes very real and not some concept or image in the distant future. Wakes make you think about your present, how you’re living it, how you want to be remembered and where you’re going after you die….
Last Thursday, my mother’s younger brother passed away. He was 62. He had a very bad fall, and I suspect had internal bleeding in the brain. My aunt couldn’t afford to pay for a CT scan or the deposit needed so he can be admitted into the provincial hospital they brought him to. They ended up moving him to the big public hospital in the southern part of town.
My mother, daughter and I visited him as he hung on in the “ACU” of the ER on Thursday afternoon. When you’re poor in a third world country and need urgent and critical medical attention, you’re in a really sorry state. I wish I had money to help but I hadn’t. It was heartbreaking to see him and the other patients lying there on the cold metal stretchers. That was the first time I saw the ER of that hospital. The scene in that room was such a stark contrast to the shiny new cars that were parked in the front and back, and to the doctors with their smooth creamy skin, tanned and made-up complexions, and well-fed bodies. Oh, the realities of life here.
I talked to my uncle as he lay there and helped my aunt pump the ambu-bag a little to help him breathe and give her a rest. He had already gone into cardiac arrest the day before but was resuscitated and kept alive by a machine. We think he still heard us talking to him. He was trying to say something and his eyes would open and attempt to look around.
My mother and aunt told him to let go when he was ready. I told him to just follow Jesus and go when he was called home. So did my mother and my aunt. My aunt had already accepted his inevitable passing after his heart attack. She had also called a priest to perform the final rites for him. When his oxygen ran out, she let him go. He died that evening.
Death and immortality. How hard we strive to stay alive and keep a part of us living after we are gone from this world. All this working hard day and night for what, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes.
I’ve been reading the Book of Isaiah for the past few days, with his visions about the earth and it’s future. It’s a bizarre book and death is a recurrent theme in the chapters I’m reading. I know it’s no accident that I’m reading Isaiah now.
Am I afraid of death? No. I just don’t want it to hurt or take too long when I die (smiles). Even in death, I want to have my own say in the matter. Such is the pride of life. We’ve done what we can to prepare for it financially and legally, especially with respect to the children. They are the primary concern because they are still so young.
As an exercise in my bible class a few months ago, we were asked to write our epitaph. It was an interesting activity to make you think about your mortality. Imagine living for a number of years only to end up with a stone slab with your name, date of birth, date of death and a dash in between them. Wouldn’t you want to be remembered in a more creative way?
I can’t remember the exact words I wrote for mine, I know it was something nice and flowery, certainly something that would give the engravers a lot of work to do. But now that I’m sitting here thinking about it, I asked myself what do I really want written on the “lapida” (the slab), aside from my name and years lived?
I’ll be back with my special words in another post, if I remember (smiling again). I just needed to get these thoughts out of my head tonight.