In 1998, my father died solitary in a bachelor quarters in Tshwane, South Africa. My mother followed twenty years later. Pneumonia related complications in both cases.
There were about eleven other fellow patients in my mother’s ward at the hospital in Thabong, Welkom. She had kept everyone awake all night with her moaning in pain, crying out an unknown name all along. Nevertheless, she managed to eat her 0700RS breakfast that fateful Sunday morning; much to everyone’s delight since she hadn’t had much appetite the two previous days. After eating she fell asleep.
When my nephew, Kgosi, and I went to check on her during the morning visit hour between 1000-1100HRS, we found her sleeping peacefully. Apparently. After hearing the report by fellow patients about my mother’s restless night, we thought it wise not to immediately awaken her. She could have her full sleep during the course of the morning, and we’d come back to see her again in the afternoon as per routine.
Fifteen minutes into our arrival in the ward, an impatient family friend found that my mother was cold and lifeless. A few minutes later, a doctor declared her officially dead. She had probably died two hours earlier. No one had taken notice. It was one of those cases of “She died peacefully in her sleep”, I guess. Perhaps the same may be said about my father. He had been dead for about two days by the time his corpse was found in his residence.
I opt to convince myself that, indeed, both my parents died peacefully in their sleep when their respective times to go arrived. Neither was surrounded by their loved ones upon breathing their respective lasts.
The thought of whether or not my own death will pounce on me in solitude has been on my mind since February, 1991. I had for the first time ever gotten ill with what I later understood to have been an acute attack of the flu. Bedridden with high fever and profuse sweating for three days in my single student room, I was so weak that I was unable to lift a telephone sitting beside me on my bed to call my school or doctor in Oslo.
One week later I had recovered without having had received any medical attention. An older, more knowledgeable friend told me that I had actually had a close brush with death. Perhaps I should consider getting myself a wife, he suggested. He argued that many people who live alone tend to die unnecessarily because there is often nobody there to render immediate assistance in times of emergencies.
In the northern hemisphere spring of 1995, I had a first-time mean attack of hay fever. I didn’t know what it was at first. For many days I kept sneezing like what I thought was like a mad man. Then I began to cough as inexplicably madly. What I thought sounded like a small cat soon started mewing in my chest. This made breathing painfully difficult even at the mildest physical exertion. Then I knew I was in trouble.
At great financial cost to me that I could afford regardless, a former lover at that time then finally hastily made it possible for me to acquire an emergency cocktail of various tablets, capsules, and an assortment of asthma medicines. Had I been alone at that critical time, I could have died from pneumonia, the former lover said later.
Today, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, moving at a frighteningly fast pace is threatening human life across the globe. The United Nations and national governments are taking drastic and, in some cases, Human Rights defying draconian measures in individual and concerted efforts to isolate, treat, control, and eventually effectively manage the disease. The ideal situation would be to eliminate the disease, of course. But it’ll take time to develop necessary relevant curative and preventive medicine. Researchers the world over are currently working at break-neck speeds to achieve the latter.
Millions of people are under various levels of quarantine throughout the world, depending on suspected or actual infections and severity. Much of the industrialized world is under lockdowns. People whose immune systems are compromised from before are dying rapidly. Some people are quarantined in their private homes with their near family units. I am alone in my abode.
I am feeling well and strong. I can’t help, though, but think about my mortality in the event that my health should take a sudden, COVID-19 related downturn. Some other shit could happen too. One never knows when shit will hit the fan. I can’t help but think that were I to die now, I sure would do so peacefully. I’d die with no beloveds of mine surrounding me. If it happened to my parents it might as well be the same with me. Family solidarity. Family tradition. I’m their eldest child after all.
Like my parents, I leave no great fortunes behind. It’s just as well for me that, unlike my parents, I leave no children behind. As to whether or not it’s a good thing to die as my corpse shall be in a cremation oven, I shall find out upon arrival on the other side.
March 15-16, 2020
Order, read, and be inspired by my latest book, Covid-19 and I: Killing Conspiracy Theories.
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