Monday, March 23, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 11

The streets are quiet.

I am awake at  3 AM. I write the final sentences of the first draft of a story that will likely never see the light of day. It is too embarrassing to show. Perhaps I will come back to it after some time to write the second draft. The prolonged time at home has encouraged me to try writing fiction again for the sake of trying, sort of a proof-of-concept experiment to see if I can do it. The exercise has done me good, so far.

My brother reheats the food we had for dinner then proceeds to work online. Careful not to bother him, I go to the balcony to get some sun and treat myself to Dr. Butch Dalisay's story, "Heartland." (Google Books preview here.) The protagonist is a surgeon named Ferrariz, jaded with death and dying all around him. I know people like him.

Blood came with the business; it meant nothing now, the corpses piled in the wagon behind the camp, bloated and dripping; the physical fact of death was the first lesson any surgeon learned.

It is a powerful and moving story that would win the Palanca. Dr. Dalisay, a master of the short story, tells of his process (quote taken from his book, The Knowing is in the Writing):

I distinctly remember the thrill of just writing , in longhand on yellow legal pad paper, the first paragraph--a thrill intensified by having no idea what would happen next . . . That led me to a war and a doctor at war.

The story is unpredictable. It is all at once gory yet affecting, and I recommend it to any serious reader of fiction.

Heartland reminds me of the war we're waging against COVID-19. I just had to use the story as a metaphor for the present reality; thanks for indulging me. The only difference is that we don't see the enemy. The coronavirus is microscopic. But, like the enemies in battle, it spares no one, young and old (yes, even the young, as you will soon discover, and it will break your heart--ah, Makaraig!).

It is tragic if someone, especially a doctor, loses his compassion. A person called to save lives or palliate other people's suffering must never be indifferent to death and dying. This happens a lot, we have words for it now, like caregiver fatigue or burnout. The causes are multifactorial. But we must never lose compassion, we must always feel pain and sadness, even grief, when we see death . Medicine is kindess lived out: it is the art and science of human beings reaching out to another.

I pray that we never lose sight of this truth. I pray that God would instill in us, health care workers, compassion and strength, courage and protection. COVID-19 is a clear and present danger. The workload may burden us, make us feel jaded, even angry at this government that only remembers us when we're badly needed, that robs its people of the right to proper health care, that seeks to protect the powerful instead of the weak.

But we carry on.



Blogger Unknown said...

God's strength and protection be upon you and all our other HCW.

Tue Mar 24, 07:38:00 PM GMT+8  

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