THERE’S no denying that by now in this perilous time of lingering pandemic abattoir, most of us must have had – in one way or another – at least a second-hand brush with the sorrow or anguish inflicted by COVID.
It’s but commonplace nowadays to be met with our eyes, every time we open the Facebook, with surreal profile posts of dark lit candles mourning the passing of a loved one, a kin, or a friend.
I, for one, have lost an elder sister in the province some months ago due to COVID.
Also, two of my high school seminary classmates – one who died last year and the other one, a police general with strong physique, who died just a few days ago – incredulously succumbed to COVID.
Inarguably indeed, mourning or grieving for lost loved ones in this wrenching time is extremely devastating and immensely heartbreaking.
In her column in the Philippine Star a few months back, Ana Marie Pamintuan succinctly gives a macabre description of how mourning in this COVID time is truly heartbreaking:
“Mourning is difficult enough; COVID raises the decibel of suffering a hundred times more. There are no proper goodbyes; there are no final hugs. The body is snatched away from you, and quickly wrapped completely to prevent even one last look. Your loved one, healthy until just about a week ago, is driven to the crematorium where the waiting line might allow for a mass or novena before the body is popped into the flames. By the time the cremation is over, the bereaved are still in a state of shock. The heartbreak and flood of tears come later, in waves, at unexpected moments.”
Taking stock of this egregiously surreal reality, I am inclined to imagine that Mother Mary’s plight of being at least present during Christ’s crucifixion and unto his burial was a better lot than the present-day bereaved ones who are totally denied of goodbyes, or at least physical presence, before their loved ones die.
So, how do we make sense, if ever, of this vaguely “senseless” way of “mourning in absentia” in this pandemic time?
Well, not only with the mourning, I’m firstly at a loss making sense or groping for the real truth about the crux of COVID itself as well as the vaccines. Not that I favor the narrative of conspiracy theorists, but neither do I readily acquiesce to every word advanced by the predominant dispensation hook, line, and sinker. But, on a fairer perspective, it behooves observing that the “fact” is not always the “truth” – and that the truth is strangely hidden from the fact. While indeed it is a fact that the spiraling number of deaths are attributed to COVID, the truth about what COVID is all about – its origin and scientific makeup or composition – yet remains a mystery, and worse, uncertainty is yet hanging over the true causes of the illnesses or deaths of many.
If the truth is hidden from the fact, it is imperative thus that we search for the truth while we deal with the fact.
Hence, back to grieving for loved ones, how do we deal with the fact of “mourning in absentia” of bereaved ones and somehow make sense of what is happening in our pandemic scheme of things? Let me put forward some thoughts.
1. Being denied of presence with our loved ones in their final hours is truly devastating and undeniably wanting in emotional closure on the part of the bereaved. This is a similar plight experienced by relatives of disaparecidos (those who have disappeared, presumed killed, for unknown circumstances). But, on corollary pondering, the thought of our loved ones’ “final hours” might just invite us to be always in “loving terms” with them, with or without the pandemic.
2. That the dead bodies are forthwith cremated engenders the idea of being hustled back to our prototype material of “dust” (and unto dust we shall return). When my former seminary classmate (police general) succumbed to COVID a few days ago, I was reminded of the Queen Band’s funk rock classic, “Another One Bites The Dust”. Conspiracy theory or not, thus, the fact of cremation reminds us of the certainty of our physical finality or death – which impels us then to prepare for it beforehand, morally and spiritually.
3. One alleviating thought perhaps the bereaved can suffice with in dealing with their grief, and I often see this on Facebook posts, is the comforting realization that the pain or suffering of their loved one has ended. And, resonant with our Christian faith, while they (our departed loved ones) are already in the bosom of God’s heavenly kingdom, they are still in communion with us – helping and interceding for us – and one day we will be reunited with them in God’s glory.
But in the final analysis, conspiracy theory or otherwise, it is worth reminding ourselves that, like anything else in this world, this evil of pestilence (humanly contrived or not) will pass – as soon as the truth will be unveiled from the fact or when the fact surrenders and the truth wins, and will prevail.
Have faith, our God is certainly GREATER than all of our present tribulations, than the COVID pandemic.