Ana is a friend who I talk to practically every day, and who lives 600 kilometers away, He wrote to me this morning saying that his uncle had died.
I knew what question I was going to ask him, and he quickly clarified that it had nothing to do with the coronavirus. He had a kidney infection and had been getting worse for several days until finally he died yesterday.
In these times of quarantine and social distancing, situations like this can be made much harder, since it is not possible to approach your loved ones to be able to give them a hug and hold a ceremony that serves as a farewell.
They had to resort to WhatsApp groups and video calls to be able to console, encourage and care for each other. And it was then when Ana said a phrase that left me totally surprised:
For a few seconds I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but the moment I fell I was right. At 36 years old, I have had to go to a few funerals of relatives and loved ones, and they have always seemed somewhat morbid and, instead of relieving the pain, they only made us sink a little more.
Here another interesting and lawful debate could be opened. On the one hand, we live in an era of “use and throw”, and a topic as delicate as saying goodbye to a loved one is not something that can or should be done lightly.
At the same time, spending more than 24 hours in a mortuary greeting people you don’t even know It can be an exhausting climax, both physically and psychologically. And worst of all, all this paraphernalia may not leave you time to do what really matters: talk about how you feel with your closest people.
Humor as a balm, both in real and virtual life
My friend has a WhatsApp group with her three brothers and her cousin (the daughter of the deceased), and it was on this channel that she reported that her father had died. “Giving condolences at a distance is complicated, but even more complicated for someone very close,” Ana tells me.
“Everything you say, seeing it written, sounds like a cliche.”
A decision had to be made to break that chain of “peliculeros” messages, which may sound a bit empty. It was at that moment that Ana’s older sister decided to strike a (virtual) blow on the table:
“Well, do you know what I am saying, even if it sounds frivolous? That the cabbage soup tonight is going to be taken for c ***. We are going to have Villanueva’s ham for dinner in his honor since we cannot go, we will keep him in mind ”
It was then that humor began to emerge as an antidote, remember anecdotes about your uncle and a possible “encounter in heaven” with grandma. “And from there, all of a sudden, we started to answer jokes, and even typical puyas that we have between us.”
“We rescue each and every one of the funny stories in common. ALL. We didn’t leave a single one behind.”
As we see, the four brothers were trying to cheer on their cousin with those unforgettable little details, that invisible thread that binds you to other people forever. And, looking at her cousin’s answer, it looks like it worked:
They started to compare this situation with that of a real mortuary, when her grandmother died and gave them a fit of laughter to see that “she was at the top of makeup, when we had not seen her with lipstick in life.” Again, humor to the rescue.
Ana (who is being very generous so that I can bring this article to life) passes me an audio that her cousin Maite sent them. Her tired voice lists all the bureaucracy she’s having to do, and this voice note ends with her broken voice saying:
“And I answering phone calls, with the funeral home, with Saint Lucia, with the people who are calling me. But above all I want to attend to this group.
Guys, I love you … really … a kiss. ”
It seems that the WhatsApp group was working, but we had to go one step furtherSo they decided to make a video call before dinner. Each one was at home, cooking something special to celebrate in honor of his uncle:
“In the end, it is the way of being together that makes you feel good”, my friend tells me. And it is that in the group video call with his cousin they skipped all the typical questions, and “make a situation that is not normal, be it.”
“We did a kind of ‘online wake’ and there was not a tear.”
Maite explained all the steps that she had to carry out with the crematorium. “He told us that they were going to put the ashes away until the time comes when we can all go fire them all together, when we can finally see each other in no rush.”
“It’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time”
Ana says they had the feeling of “everything good about a wake (See us, share the moment, remember stories, talk about nothing and life …) “but at the same time”they saved all the bad things from the mortuary: the physical place, the wait to know that you are going to meet sad people, to see the person who has died -that not everyone lives that with the same tranquility-, the physical presence of the pain of loss, hugs they throw you down when you had come back etc. “
It is clear that there is no “easy” or painless way to fire a loved one. We often complain, and rightfully so, about how messaging apps have changed the way we communicate with others. It comforts me that in situations as complicated as this it can become a refuge in which to find peace with your loved ones even if they are miles away. ”
The last message my friend sends me sums it up perfectly:
“With my father compulsively cleaning the camera because it was blurred, the other talking on the phone and in the foreground -because in hangouts you see who is talking-, the other getting thin on ham, me making noise in the kitchen … we looked like the cliche of the poorly organized and noisy and confusing video call. And at the same time, I don’t know … it’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time. ”
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