Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The price is steep, even in death

It has been years since I encountered a loss in the family but the trauma, pain and longing remain to this day.

I remember receiving a death text notice from a family friend as early as 6.13 in the morning… years ago.

Months ago, my friends and I visited a wake of a college buddy whose family member died of another illness.

My father's long battle with liver cirrhosis lasted for almost two years while my travel buddy’s brother's fight against pancreatitis lasted for a year and two weeks.

Back to the memory lane of having to hear the words “sorry to hear about your loss,” “at least he finally rested,” so on and so forth.
But he put so neatly: “Nag report na siya kay Lord after a year of fight.”
Years ago, as he painfully watched his younger brother's struggle against life inside the Intensive Care Unit of the Quirino Memorial Hospital, my comforting words was: “It's a long wait, but it should not sadden you. God decides on the culmination of any human life. When your Jojo is ready it will be serenely.”
And so at 2 a.m. one Friday, another life was called.

Believe me when I say, I know the feeling of having to see someone suffer and fight against this beautiful life because I was a witness on death when it called my father.

Isn't it hard to pray to God to take someone's life even if its purpose is to lessen the suffering and pain? And knowing that in the end He is still the one who decides when is the best time, His will we should always respect but do not always understand.

Apart from the pain of seeing a love one suffer, finding money to pay hospital bills and medicines is another problem.
What is more costly is it living or dying?
Let me talk about the cost of dying, with my father as an example.

Phase I
Before death:
Check-up + medicine prescription = money.
Passport for his check-ups: The powerful HMO card.
You may not pay for the check-up but you are obliged to buy all the medicines prescribed by the doctor.
How would we cope with the P250-P300 check-up fee and the maintenance medicines?
In short, my father was just lucky that he had an extended lease on his life courtesy of the HMO card.

Phase II

Hospitalization + medicine prescription = money.
First, our family had a verbal tussle as my father refused to be brought to the hospital for the nth time. Dehydrated and too weak to do battle with the tears shed by the family, he finally agreed to be confined.
The tiger in the house finally succumbed to our pleas and stayed for almost a month.
It was a montage on the usual patient-in-the-hospital-fighting-to-live drama in real life.
I will not talk on how he fought to live from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to Cardio Care Unit (CCU) to his hospital room, and vice-versa, not to mention how he gave those attending nurses and doctors’ headaches.
Now let's categorize the scenarios before dying:
Category I: the sick or the dying did not make it to the hospital, died at home or somewhere else.
Category II: the sick or the dying eventually expired while being rush to hospital or
Category III: the sick made it to hospital but unfortunately expired while being treated.
My father was classified under the third category. His heart surrendered while being treated but according to his death certificate, the immediate cause of death was CRF secondary to gouty nephropathy. Antecedent cause: chronic atrial fibrillation.
Underlying cause: liver cirrhosis.
Whatever those above mentioned medical terms mean, I just know one thing, my father died because he was too tired to fight death and that God was just around the corner that day waiting to be acknowledged.
However, before he gasped his last breath - there was one final request, this time not about taking care of our mother.
He has another love, we knew about this all along.
Naah there was no other woman but his beloved fighting cocks. But this is another story. Now let's go to the third phase of the cost of dying.

Phase III
The wake = money.
For sure when a family member dies, the rest of the family members argue about what coffin to buy, what color, what services, how many days for interment, where to be buried, is cremation an option? how much? etc. etc.
The death certificate alone costs about P100 and needed before you can do any transactions.
Here's the breakdown:
Coffin = P7,500 (cheapest)
P150,000 (expensive).
Flowers = Pxxxxx
Food = Pxxxxxx
Accommodation (my registered nurse sister and I called this board and lodging) = (depends if its non-air or air-conditioned).

In 2003, our family bargained for a P40,000 coffin from its original price of P55,000 with P2,500 a night in an air-conditioned accommodation – the last hurray in paying respects to the man who taught us more than just being streetsmart.
The cheapest “coffin-wake” package is about P7,500, a simple coffin made of ordinary plywood, with free three nights accommodation at a funeral home.
So, after everything's settled from what attire the dead will wear, to the color of the coffin, flowers, etc comes the final phase.

Phase IV
Burial = lot in a cemetery + payment for the cemetery lot diggers + food after the interment = (again) money, your last stroke.
What transpired during the wake will be totally different during the burial. This includes finding a decent cemetery.
But as I said, nothing is free. Even for the digging of soil (which we know would be the same soil that will cover the coffin) will cost you.
Yes, you have to pay for it. It is not included in the package whether you get two or three or four lots in the cemetery. To give you an idea, it's just like acquiring a high-end new mobile phone.
So, there you are an estimate on the cost of the dying.
Life they say is a finite lease and all you have to do is make the most of it.
Those who said goodbye to their leased life finally got their ultimate vacation in His paradise, a place where everything in the garden is lovely.
There they can talk about anything under the sun without having to worry about beating the deadlines.
Dying is ain't good as living but for me death is just another life... a life not having to think on the cost of dying.