Thursday, April 24, 2014

Knowing when to die

Tita Valderama

During a homily in one of the Masses I attended last week, the priest asked Mass goers if they would want to know when they would die. Only two of about a hundred people present mustered the courage to raise their hands.

It may be a simple question, but a tough one to answer. Wouldn’t you want to be given time to repent for your sins and to do good to prepare for a happy death and be welcomed in heaven?

On the other hand, knowing the date of your death would probably stress you out and cause you anxieties that could further complicate situations and advance your passing.

Obstetricians know how to compute the birth date of a child, based on the calculation of the mother’s ovulation period. I am not convinced though that doctors can tell when a patient will die, regardless of the severity of illness.

The priest’s question reminded me of our long-time family doctor’s advise to the daughter of a patient who was diagnosed with lung cancer. Trying to hold back her tears, the daughter asked the doctor how longer her father would live.

The doctor said he couldn’t tell. He related a story about a lady who was told by another doctor that her husband would only have three months at most to live because the cancer was rapidly spreading in his frail body.

The wife went out of the hospital. She was devastated. They have four young children and she was jobless. The husband’s hospital bills were increasing by thousands of pesos each day and the couple’s savings accounts had been depleted. While crossing the highway, a speeding truck hit her and she died instantly.

That was a true story, the doctor said. The wife who was healthy died way ahead of the seriously-ill husband who lived longer than three months.

My sister and I were next to the patient who asked the doctor about her father’s fate. We were there to settle the doctor’s fee. That was a few days after we buried our father in November 1996.

Tatay had emphysema. He battled with the disease for about 20 years. He was a chain smoker in his younger days. He inhaled pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and other toxic substances while farming.

The farm was our only source of livelihood. We were 11 siblings that he had to feed and send to school so he really had to work hard, spending at least 12 hours a day in the farm every day.

Tatay stopped tending the farm when he was around 60 years old and Kuya was old enough to till the land. Kuya had to stop schooling after finishing Grade 6 to assist Tatay in the farm while Ate and Ditse were staying with our mother’s cousin and helping in the household chores in return for the free full board.

Since the time I heard the doctor’s story, I never asked when somebody would die. I don’t believe doctors who predict a patient’s death.

I put my trust completely in the Lord for He is the only one who knows when to take back the life that He had lent us.

When Ate was diagnosed with Stage 4 gingival cancer in August 2011, we constantly prayed and begged that she be restored to full health although we knew the cancer was at a terminal stage already.

We believed and we trusted in the magnificent powers of prayer and in God’s mercy. We still do so even after He had taken back Ate into his arms after two years and two months since she was diagnosed with the dreaded cancer.

We keep the same faith even when Ditse was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer barely three months after Ate passed on last October. We trust that the Lord will keep Ditse in His graces and grant her Divine Healing in His time.

Early this year, I, too, was advised by a naturopathic doctor to watch over my health as cancer cells were beginning to form in my pancreas. Contradicting findings from different doctors were confusing and stressful.

Alternative medicines cost a fortune so I stopped taking any after spending almost all of my salaries for two months to tablets, capsules and powders that did not seem to make a progress on my health. I just took a switch in my eating habits and tried to handle stressful situations with prayers. I just take vitamin supplements to address my nutritional deficiencies and I try to stay away from cancer-causing food. Now I feel better.

The Holy Week that passed gave me time to reflect on my life better. It strengthened my belief that the difficult trials coming our way are mere challenges, and never intended as punishment for our wrongdoings.

As my father uttered in his death bed, I believe that these trials are opportunities to help Jesus carry the cross. Only God knows when one should join Him in His Kingdom.
How about you? Would you want to know when you will die?

No comments: