Today I want to talk about another personal experience, which illustrates how we humans could be one inclusive community throughout the entire world, if only we would choose that path.
Since moving into my house at the end of 2016, I had been involved in the life of a neighbor who has a disability. Many of us in the village looked out for her and helped her out so that she could be as independent as possible in her own home.
And then she started to become sick. She was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. An advanced stage by the time it was diagnosed. Now, except for my parents and son, my experience with illness has always been in a hospital in my capacity as a registered nurse. I was sure that procedures, laws may be different here in Mexico, so I consulted with my Mexican nurse friend to see how things worked here – consents, hospice, attitudes about end-of-life care.
Meanwhile, because this neigbor had a mental disability, I wasn’t sure if there were any differences in verbal interactions with a mentally challenged adult versus one who had full mental capacity.
And for this, I am forever grateful to live in a time that has the wonder of the internet. It is not only a way to show cat photos to the world (of which I am guilty) or arguing with someone whom you have never met (also guilty) but it is a treasure-trove of information and a way for people to connect in the most meaningful ways.
There are many online groups of like-minded people who can connect for various reasons – politically, religiously, professionally. One of my groups is a network of professionals, mainly nurses, started when Joy Behar made her famous “why was she wearing a doctor’s stethoscope” remark (Keep this in mind if anyone wants to publicly impugn the abilities of a nurse. P*ss off one nurse, and you’ll be doing it to all of us.).
Anyway, I put the question out there to connect with anyone who had experience with this type of patient and two nurses answered. I seemed to have more of a rapport with one of them, so I thanked the first one and continued conversations with the second nurse, who lives in the United States.
Over the course of two months, I received advice and much-needed emotional support for which I will be forever grateful, as I was second-guessing myself quite a bit. I was better able to explain things to the family and give the family and this woman the proper kind of emotional support and explain each step of the end of life process because of my conversations with this wonderful hospice nurse. Many years ago, this would never have been possible.
My neighbor passed away in her own home, in her own bed last Thursday, surrounded by family and friends. The process here is that an ambulance was called, they came and pronounced her, and then the funeral home was called. She passed at 6pm, but the funeral home did not come until after midnight. The village church rang its bells at her passing.
The next day, a tent was erected in the street in front of her house. Seats were placed under the tent where we sat, prayed, talked, while having juice and soup. Her living room had been cleared out and the casket was inside, in front of a red screen, with lit candles and flowers around it, and a picture of her dressed up for a friend’s wedding.
At 4 pm there was a funeral mass, after which her casket was put into the hearse. The hearse then proceeded to the cemetery at a walking pace, since all of us in the village who were attending walked the approximately one mile to the cemetery right behind the hearse.
This is the rainy season, but fortunately it did not begin to rain until we were almost at the cemetery. For those who wished to see her one last time, the head of the casket was held open, and shortly thereafter, she was placed in her grave.
Being a Catholic country, the custom is to have the tent outside the house for 9 days, during which prayers are held every evening (a Novena). But with the rains, the tent was taken down and prayers are held inside her house. After prayers, various snacks are served, such as hot chocolate and pastries.
I like many of the traditions here, which emphasize family and caring for one another. Beginning after the death and for 9 days following the funeral, people gather to talk about the departed, comfort one another, pray, eat, give emotional support and allow grieving.
Through technology I was able to deal with being retired, being in a foreign country whose language is not my first language, and not being familiar with the customs and details of caring for a person with her specific needs.
All of humanity has different languages and customs, but underneath we are all brothers and sisters, and I am grateful for this extended worldwide family that technology and being born at the right time in history has allowed me to experience. My one wish for the world is for all of us to incorporate this feeling of “one-ness” into our innermost beings.