Friday, October 12, 2007
Someone has brought me to hospitals like the Quirino Memorial Center and National Kidney Transplant Institute, but in effect brought me to farther places.
Both QMC and NKTI have the certain aura of the hospital. Both smell of antiseptic, which takes away the microscopic dirt, renders the place clean. The dominant color is white, which makes the appearance of everything pure, immaculate. The faces are serene, as in angels’. But why is it that in the purity, something is missing? Is it the possibility that the smell permeates in the food, making the patients lose their appetites? Is it with the whiteness that matches the wan faces?
We arrived there in batches. Though we are characteristically noisy, we had to pay homage to the hospitals’ sanctity. We were told from the very beginning that we have to be quiet, lest we want to add up to the inconvenience felt by the patients who are asleep in brief interludes. Sometimes, places like these become eerily quiet, they’re almost resembling the cemetery. In a moment’s separation from the outside reality, everything fell in a sudden hush. It seems to me that pain and illness and discomfort all have to be enveloped in silence.
I was told that the kids have cancer. For so young a life, their joy had to be short-lived. I imagine the portion of flesh, mimicking an invisible crab. When it hurts, does the crab pinch the flesh? When the body twists in pain, does the crab want to spill out of the skin? When the patient howls in earnest, does the crab laugh or cry with him? When the back hurts, are the kidneys being invaded by little crabs trying to house themselves into the bean-shaped organs?
I like to think a butterfly instead floats atop a cancer patient’s head. That way, I need not think of pincers piercing through the flesh when attacking. There is no carapace making the comfort elusive to the patient. When a butterfly moves about, it flutters its wings noiselessly. Does it land on a patient’s hair? But he’s asleep now, so maybe the butterfly is not to keen on torturing the patient. He is peaceful, the face of a cherub registering on his countenance. The universe of his world is at peace.
Others seem ordinary kids: they chatter, except that they cannot move about listlessly. They are warned not to move around lest they hurt themselves. Fancy thinking they have arms, legs, yet they cannot run, tumble, play as ordinary boys and girls do. A young boy reads from a list which looks like a medical prescription of all the pills he has to take in. He looks away, face in a pensive mood. He is young, and yet he effects a pilgrim who has wearily traveled across the globe.
We brought them cakes. For the first time, we see their eyes glisten. Smiles become plastered on their faces. Some had become ashamed since tears stood in their eyes. Is the crab hurting her again? Is the moan of pain too much for the boy to bear that he can’t even smile despite the black forest resting next to him? Some kids shared their cakes with somebody else. It is touching to see that in the throes of death, even friendship does not even care to blink. They spoon a slab of cake and feed each other. Some have the desire to join us in our singing, but their voices were long lost, as in a violin that refused to sing. They sit next to us and do a lip synch: their mouth with remnants of sweets, they appear innocent yet their sickness makes them seem like veterans in the game of life.
Visiting the cancer-stricken children is one of the life-learning and memorable experiences I have had not only because it is my first time to take part in this kind of activity but also because it teaches me many values in life. I am able to see the two sides of life which makes me learn how to appreciate the promising life I have compared to that just as promising and yet early in getting life’s blow. I am able to feel how difficult it is to fight for your life when the enemy is inside you. Thus, as a healthy person, I wish the kids would have better chances at recovery in order for them to enjoy their lives. Also, this activity teaches me on how to appreciate life in whatever length or lack thereof. What is important is that life is lived to the fullest, no matter how long or short.
Stepping onto the hospital premises has sent me to a place farther removed from reality. This is where life and death meets. People want to ask why there should be life if it is going to be short after all. But that must be the point why God sent the crabs crawling and the butterfly fluttering: that however brief life can be, it can be lived to its fullness. Life can still be doled out of this brevity. There is no point at having to live to a hundred when no other life has touched yours. There is no sense in living a long life that is devoid of love and care and concern from others.
Being able to share a portion of my lifetime to kids who won’t enjoy it as much as they wanted makes me feel like I am responsible not only for myself but also for others. It would have been easy to say I can live as an island, but that is an exercise in futility. I will always be a life in tangency with other lives and in this case, these are my siblings whom I am spending a part of my life with. While they still belong to the earth, it is my duty to be with them, to make them happy before the crabs take them away from me.