Today my first cousin Jeffrey passed away from a ruptured intracranial aneurysm. He was only 33. His wasn't a very hopeful case, as he was Hunt and Hess category 5 or 6 on admission. We were only hoping against all odds as he was still very young. We weren't really close; he was a good 7 years older than I am and therefore was already past the silliness of childhood when I developed a consciousness. But still, I am the godfather of his eldest son; he had 3 children in all. I know that the children will be in very good care (thanks to our very tight-knit family), but I'm still troubled, since they're too young to know such pain-- or maybe more unfortunate that they're at the threshold of actually recognizing the pain.
I haven't yet cried. I might if I see the wife or children cry. I think people (at least my med school classmates) believe I'm fairly robotic. But I keep remembering this one time when I was rotating in Anesthesiology and we were preparing to operate on an infant-- incredibly cute, impossibly with a permanent smile and gurgle-- he had amniotic constriction bands that needed to be excised to allow proper development of his limbs as soon as possible. It was early in the day, so only the baby, the mother and I were in the operating room, and I was getting my notes ready. The mother was softly whispering to her baby, "Mag-pray ka kay Papa Jesus na alagaan ka, ha?" (Pray to Papa Jesus for Him to take care of you, okay?) While the baby was still impossibly cute, smiling obliviously, loving every minute of attention from his mother.
I guess it's because I'm not a parent. I found it completely wonderful that the mother was projecting a prayer-- basically talking to her baby, even though he couldn't understand a word. I ran out of the room and I broke down. I don't cry because of hard work or frustration. I never cry because someone yells at me or is disappointed in me. But to see such purity of love and faith was just too much to handle.
My friends were all freaked out (they'd never seen me cry) on the halls of the operating complex because I was crying, but even when I explained it, they still didn't get it. I consider myself to be a bit of a faithful person, but when you see such a shining example of it, it makes you realize how much of an infant you are, how little of the universe you understand. I guess faith is mysterious in that way; it's either the easiest instinct or the hardest, most elusive quality.
Outside the occasional stupid drama show or movie, I think I've only cried a fair few times for actual people; four of them about patients (including the one above). But the connecting thread between all four is that there was a mind-blowing example of faith, or unconditional love, even in the most difficult of times, even at the time of death.
Now the challenge has come to me, to be an example of faith and love to the children my cousin left behind. It's going to be okay. I hope so. I know so. I only wish that I wasn't relatively still such an infant. Taking those first steps can be extremely frightening. But I guess that's what faith is for.
14 October 2008