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Vietnam

Requiems in Vietnam field hospitals for Covid-19 patients

Prayers for pandemic victims in a hospital morgue are a reminder of a new eternal life that will never fade away

Sister Teresa Nguyen Thi Phuong

Sister Teresa Nguyen Thi Phuong

Published: November 05, 2021 03:58 AM GMT

Updated: December 03, 2021 04:13 AM GMT

Requiems in Vietnam field hospitals for Covid-19 patients

A dead Covid-19 patient is moved to a hospital morgue in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of giaophanbacninh.org)

This November, the month of remembrance, is completely unlike any other year that I have experienced. I could not clean my beloved ones' graves and offer them candles, lamps, incense and flowers as I usually do.

I thought that everything was going to happen quietly as normal, but that is not the case as very often interesting answers in life are carefully wrapped in wonderful gifts that we must work hard to open.

Due to the complicated situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Church invites her children to choose appropriate times to visit their dear departed ones' graves in holy gardens or cemeteries provided it is safe for themselves and other people.

It is extremely fortunate for me that every day is a convenient time. During my daily shifts in a field hospital for coronavirus patients, I regularly visit and say prayers for deceased patients kept in the hospital morgue.

At this "meeting point" people do not suffer discrimination on the grounds of age, wealth or religion. They all have died of the virus without their relatives by their sides and without a chance to bid others final farewells.

Yesterday afternoon, when my shift ended, I intended to go to the changing room and then return home, but there seemed to be something in my heart that urged me to linger a little longer. Following the silent calling, I walked around the wards to visit patients and found that a male patient had just passed away. Doctors and nurses were wrapping his body.

The dead are human too. It is just that they are now different from us — they are saints

Some religious volunteers and I gathered around saying prayers for him. To thank him for remembering me and inviting me to him, I joined two nurses in taking him down to the morgue.

On the way, the nurses asked me if I knew this old man.

"I have only known him since he was in the hospital. And until now I am his relative," I replied.

"So, you are not afraid?" one of them continued.

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"Normally, I am fiendishly afraid of ghosts and seeing dead people, but since entering the hospital I have been no longer afraid of them. The dead are human too. It is just that they are now different from us — they are saints."

Both nurses looked at me in surprise in the elevator that seemed to be smaller than usual, perhaps because of the expansion of genuine intimacy, love and humanity that were overflowing here.

After a few minutes of silence, the nurses asked me whether I was accompanying the patient to pray for him.

"That's right. I take him to the morgue and pray for his soul on behalf of his relatives. May he soon be in heaven with those who have departed this life," I said.

Then we did not talk to one another anymore, quietly pushing the trolley with the body. Although it was only a short distance, we had the same purpose, conjuring up a new vision of the future that is full of dawn light, warm rays of the sun, delighted laughter and emotional meeting, and without pain, separation and mourning.

Walking alone in a dark night that covered the space, I suddenly felt that a bond of love in me seemed to be longer, thicker and more supple

After we put him in the freezer, the nurses told me: “Sister, stay to pray. We go first!”

I turned around and nodded to thank them. When I was left alone with the man and the souls temporarily resting there, I suddenly realized that the human condition was extremely fragile. People are now strong, tomorrow become weak, and the day after tomorrow pass away.

The dead man's relatives are a bit down in the dumps since they could not see him one last time. After a period of hoping and waiting for good news, what they finally received was the limit of the inevitable human fate, except for brief phone calls through volunteers.

Yes, we must obey the law of "birth, old age, sickness and death” to look forward to a new eternal life that will never fade away.

I stayed with the man a little longer and then returned.

Walking alone in a dark night that covered the space, I suddenly felt that a bond of love in me seemed to be longer, thicker and more supple. The sky in my heart also quickly expanded to an extraordinary extent.

Looking at the sky, I profusely thanked God for leading me and using me as a small instrument in his hand so that, up to this moment, I realize that my life is brilliantly shining with a mysterious color of meaning.

This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on giaophanbacninh.org here.

1 Comments on this Story
SHALINI MULACKAL
I was very much touched by Sr. Teresa Nguyen's article on "Requiems in Vietnam field hospitals for Covid-19 Patients. Beautifully written from her experience.

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