I had seen my father lying under a neon light in a hospital room from 10ft away, as the atmosphere was filled with the scent of antiseptics. I had never seen him lying on his back, as he always used to sleep turning to his left. Hence, it was difficult for me to recognise the man lying on his back in an air-conditioned room, with his hands on his chest. His face looked a little big and a bit bloated! Later, I came to know that it was the terminal stage of a person with problems related to failure of one’s kidneys…
I had arrived at the hospital, with a shirt, trouser and a shawl in my hands. My mother gave me the shawl before I left for the hospital, saying: “If it gets cold when you get to return home, wrap it around your torso.” Meanwhile, we – I and a secret entity inside me – were standing at the hospital, outside the cabin where my father was admitted! All of a sudden, we engaged in an epic debate on whether it was a logical decision to admit my father to the hospital. Perhaps, we knew that he would not be able to come back alive after suffering a cardiac arrest for the fourth time. The person, who had taken good care of his family members, spent some lonely and sad moments before leaving this world…
Father passed away a couple of years ago… memories of him fade, gradually. I do not feel his absence in my life, anymore. However, a question still haunts me… How much is too much? It is very difficult to determine the fine line between adequate and excess, while arranging for better medical facilities for a beloved person. However, it is not difficult, either… Now, the question arises here is: whether we make this arrangement for the betterment of the patient, or to console ourselves?
Later, I carried out a Dipstick Survey to find an answer to this…. I contacted 50 friends, colleagues, relatives and other close people to know about their feelings after the deaths of elderly family-members. Although their views were personal, those helped me understand human emotions a lot. The survey revealed that at least one elderly member of almost every family died in a hospital after suffering quite a lot from illness! Again, many of my friends, like me, were hesitant about their decision to admit their near and dear ones to hospitals in the final stage. Some of them expressed satisfaction that they were able to bring the elderly member back to their homes from the hospital! Interestingly, majority of the people complained about the inconvenience of treating an elderly patient at home. It seems that spending money for arranging for better medical facilities, instead of wasting time and energy by nursing a patient, is a smart, as well as a wise, move…
No one can deny the fact that Medical Science has made a great progress in the last few decades. Proper hygiene and quality food have improved the average life expectancy of Human Beings, a lot. However, we still do not have a proper idea as to how to stay fit and fine at old age… Older people used to breathe their last at their homes in the presence of their near and dear ones in India, in the past. Then, death, like birth, became more of a normal phenomenon… Nowadays, Consumerism entails that we live longer! A section of the society has started exhibiting the tendency even to deny death, the inevitable! Relatives of patients resorting to incidents of vandalism in various hospitals and nursing homes after deaths of patients have become a common practice in India. Often, we tend to forget the fact that no matter how much powerful we are, everything comes to an end with Death!
In his 1957 historical fantasy film ‘The Seventh Seal’ (‘Det Sjunde Inseglet’), Swedish Director Ingmar Bergman told of the journey of a Medieval Knight, Max von Sydow, and a game of chess he used to play with the personification of Death, Bengt Ekerot! Ekerot had come to take Sydow’s life. Bergman developed the film from his own play ‘Wood Painting’, as the title refers to a passage from the ‘Book of Revelation’, used both at the very beginning of the film and again towards the end. The film began with the words: “And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” In this film, the motif of silence referred to the Silence of God that was a major theme of the movie.
Well, we fear diseases, but not Death! We just want to avoid Death, resulting from prolonged illness, at any cost. However, a person – who is about to leave this world – becomes lonely in her/his final moments. Perhaps, the person wants a huge recognition from her/his family members.
It is, indeed, difficult to know about the desire that pervades the conscious and subconscious minds of the dying person. Maybe, it is a little delayed journey from a hospital bed, away from home, to the end, alone! It may also be a journey to Eternal Peace after saying a final Good Bye to near and dear ones, a little bit earlier. These are the questions that float around us in the midst of memories, tears, grief and sorrow surrounding Death!
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