“It is one thing to imagine dying on a ventilator, or not being able to get one; it is another to imagine dying so alone” — The New York Times, April 7th
The New York Times published a beautiful article on April 7th that hit me hard. It reminded me of my own father dying a few years ago, and how being with him was one of the most intimate moments of my life.
Having had that experience, it hurts deeply even thinking of fathers and mothers dying separated from their children because of a virus, because of laws set in place.
According to the NYT, dying alone is a possible reality for New York City’s 1.7 million older adults. For many of these elderly people, the idea alone has become a second epidemic that might do more harm than the Virus itself.
It’s the drama of social distancing in its most inhumane form and the darkest side of this pandemic. One that nobody will live to tell.
Instead of family around them, the dying patients get a video conversation or a telephone placed by their ear — The New York Times
In this perspective, I feel an urgency to tell you the story of my last days and moments with my father and how his actual death has become one of the most beautiful and important moments of my entire life.
My father was 93 when he died — a very respectable age. I was there with him when he passed away. My sister was too sick to be there at the moment, and my mother had already passed away long before.
Happily, he had decided to die at home, despite the increasing pains in his old body. The weeks before his passing were full of miracles.
No other stage in people’s lives than the one of a nearing end brings family and loved ones more together.
Looking back, these weeks and his actual passing away contain one of the biggest gifts live ever gave me. It taught me not to be afraid of other family, friends and loved once dying in the future.
It felt like a huge plaster of compassion and love and it gave me the strength to keep on holding space for my father over my own grief and sadness for him to journey out of my life. It smoothened the pain of the inevitable coming loss.
This is one miracle of death, but there are many. My father was a very religious man, up till the end. He was Catholic and one very sweet and dear memory I have of him is that he always prayed for my sister and me, rain or shine.
He prayed of me when I about to set off to another crazy risky adventurous period in my life. He prayed for my sister who suffered life long sicknesses but was strong like a buffalo. The thing I remember most was that he even would pray in times of trouble. When we had a disagreement. Later, he would tell me that despite we didn’t call each other for a week, he still prayed each and every night. This was his way of telling us he loved us and cared for us.
My father was 2 meters long, he had white curly hair and the touch of his hand was amazingly tender.
Miracles happened the week before he died. He was weak as he suffered from intestines cancer. I needed to help him to go to the toilet. I needed to take off his pants and sit him down. After some initial shame, this became such an amazing moment. It made me remember all the times he would have changed my diapers. It felt like a great honour to get so close to my father, to be able to help him in the most vulnerable and helpless hours of his life. It made the circle of life complete.
At the moment of his death, I was next to him. The brave man from the palliative care service sat a few meters away on the balcony. I held the soft tender big hands of my dying father for hours now. It was my time to pray, for his safe journey home. I had come so close to my father in these last weeks, and now I had to let him go.
These last moments of sharing life in the adversary of death were the most intimate I had with him. A white, serene pure light surrounded us, a sacred space far away from the mundane. It was one of the hottest days of the year but still, I could hear birds sing outside.
I softly kissed his forehead while I let go of his hand.
Reading the story in the NYT about old people dying alone in hospitals because of the Coronavirus made my heart shrink. It is inhumane and the law should prevent it instead of making this possible.
When there is anything to take away from this writing, it is this;
Please keep your parents and loved ones close when their moments come. Do everything you can, these are the moments what life is all about.
At least it was for me. They taught me the most important lesson of life: Death is as important as life itself.
When a person dies, life simply demands that their loved ones can and should be near.
This is what makes us human and this should be possible at all times.
Of course, everybody makes their own choices. But there is no protection of the elderly or yourself in not being with your loved ones when they die. This moment made me understand that we, humans, can’t defeat death. Instead, learn to embrace it, learn to have peace with it.
Death is one of the most glorious moments of life and can be one of the most intimate moments you have when you say goodbye to your loved ones. Don’t let a virus take that away from you.