January 29, 2023

It pains my heart that for the past two months or so, I have heard and witnessed relatives, friends, and acquaintances succumbed to the Covid-19. While most got healed, a few died. For those who died, I sympathize with their family. I wanted to share their grief and tried to spend a few moments of my time to visit them, to console them, or to give them encouragement that they are not alone in this tragedy.
But I was prevented from doing so because they were not allowed to entertain guests or friends who wanted to reach out to them. Since they were exposed to the virus which lead to the death of their loved ones, their exposure to the public makes them a danger to society. They are contact-traced individuals who must be put in quarantine and isolation.
This is the problem. Even in death, the pandemic has altered the way we treat each other. Before the contagion infected our nation, it was easier to deal with the death of a loved one. There was a period of mourning. Sympathizers were allowed to come and go. Everyone was free to participate in the religious and traditional rites for the dead. There was a lull between the death and the burial where heirs of the deceased are comforted with words of encouragement from concerned individuals. Moreover, the mourning period lessened their expenses since those who joined the wake certainly gave donations.
With people giving words of encouragement, the death of a loved one is easier to accept. To know that there are people whom those who are left behind can rely on, the lingering pain of losing someone dear is a lot bearable. Death would thence be easier to overcome. The recovery period is a lot shorter and much more dramatic.
But not now, at least while social distancing and the ban on gathering are state protocols. When someone dies due to Covid-19, the body is carried from the hospital’s isolation room straight to the crematorium. The remains of a dead is immediately burned without giving the relatives time to mourn. Neither can they administer the last rites for the dead. No extreme unction, no masses, no prayers, no nothing except a snippet of memory from the comfort of their homes.
What is more, those who are left behind are left to contemplate their own health and safety. Since they are surely contact persons of the Covid-19 afflicted deceased person, they are ordered to be in isolation. Instead of grieving for the soul of the bereaved relative, they grieve for their own safety, mentally suffering from the double whammy of being deprived of their freedom and of losing a loved one. They cannot entertain condolers or sympathizers for fear that they will contribute to the spread of the worsening pandemic. What is left to do is to just cry and accept the fate that has befallen them. A bad precedent and a sad plight.
Indeed, these are hard times for the living as it is hard times for the dead. For us, Catholics and probably some Christian sects as well, we believe that it is in our prayers that will cleanse the dead of their sins. It is in offering masses that God will open up the doors of heaven to accept the souls of dead relatives.
Ironically, under the present set-up, that is very difficult to achieve. However, can we offer prayers for a dead relative or friend when there is no time for it? We are all too concerned with our own safety that we would rather pray for ourselves than for someone who died preemptively without the benefit of being mourned. Besides, attending and/or offering masses has become burdensome due to the limitation of our movements as well as due to the restrictions again on interacting with one another.
So, while death comes like a thief in the night, this era of our existence makes dying all the more burdensome and painful. True, all of us must die sometime, but if it can be helped, this is not as good a time as anytime else. We have this inherent fear of dying. This fear is further reinforced by the thought that this is a very bad time to die.