Updated: September 09, 2021 10:37 AM GMT
Priests from Xuan Loc Bishop’s House offer ventilators to a hospital in Dong Nai province, Vietnam, on Aug. 30. (Photo courtesy of giaophanxuanloc.net)
It was past midnight. While a sister and I were cleaning the floor, a nurse ran up to us in a hurry saying: “Sisters, a man has just passed away. Please come in and pray for him."
We immediately left our unfinished work and rushed to the sickroom where nurses were removing medical equipment from a motionless body.
I watched his face turn purple and then fade away. A female doctor still stood by him, clearly expressing her sadness because of failing to save his life after medical emergency measures. The doctor put her hand over his eyes and quietly turned away. The nurses quickly wrapped the body in a body bag and phoned the morgue staff to take it away.
It all happened in a twinkling when we had not finished funeral prayers.
I am used to such daily situations since I voluntarily started to take care of Covid-19 patients at a hospital’s intensive care unit. At first I was terribly surprised, even mildly shocked.
In my family and convent, I have been familiar with seeing so many relatives surrounding the dying. The deceased are washed, dressed properly and buried with many funeral rituals, flowers, incense and candles.
Some patients have high positions and talents, and still wear jewelry of various kinds on their bodies, while others are ordinary, in misery with emaciated bodies
Conversely, patients here are on their deathbeds without their beloved ones and die tragically. There's really nothing left. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have to depart this life in that pain.
If I was not here and failed to witness these scenes in front of my eyes, I would not go through a sobering experience of the fragility of human fate. I keep thinking that when we go through life, what do we have left?
Most patients in this intensive care unit are comatose. Every day I visit and pray for patients in rooms. They are the city's residents — men, women, children, youths and elderly. This contagious virus spares no one, infecting all sections of society. Some patients have high positions and talents, and still wear jewelry of various kinds on their bodies, while others are ordinary, in misery with emaciated bodies. Now, they all are equal and all distinctions among them disappear. Everyone, whoever they are, has nothing but their nakedness on hospital beds with short breaths.
Spiritual death sometimes precedes physical death. That is the loneliness and fear of not having any loved ones by their side. They have gone through all their life, done innumerable works, cherished hopes and dreams, and built up vast networks of human relationships, but now they alone face a painful death. That feeling is not easy to accept.
It seems that many of the patients have felt their fate of ashes and die peacefully. But I also see some patients still struggling in their last breaths as if they are unsatisfied with something.
One day I witnessed the dying breath of a woman in her 60s. While doctors were trying to rescue her, she opened her eyes for the last time, looking around as if searching for a relative because, just the day before, she had confided to me that her whole family were infected with Covid-19 and isolated in different places. She lost contact with them and was desperately worried about them.
But around her at that time there were only white walls and unfamiliar faces in protective gear. I could clearly see her great disappointment and sadness in her eyes. The ventilator had no signal. She had left but her eyes were still open and full of worries. It's impossible to describe how painful she was. So fragile, a human life.
They all depart from this life with empty hands as they came into life
In the hospital, the line between life and death is like a wink. Some people are still alive today but leave tomorrow. They all depart from this life with empty hands as they came into life. What is left in their life? No trumpets, flowers and relatives to see them off. None of the fame, status, fortune, beauty and other such things can follow them into eternal life.
Jesus' words echo in me: "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Indeed, when the door of time closes, the only hope for my life is Divine Mercy. All worldly things must be left to the world and only charitable deeds that I daily accumulate can become a true treasure for me, be my only friend who follows me to God's throne.
What's left after my life? This lesson is eminently valuable to me so that right now, while I still breathe, I promptly choose treasure that will never perish.
This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on tgpsaigon.net.