The Journey of Life

Life is all about learning, and acting out what one has learned. I have used the word “learning” in the broadest sense. It is not the limited kind of learning in school, university or college and other educational institutions, which apparently has been created in the course of developing oneself as a civilized human being . Learning here includes the process of absorbing knowledge both consciously and unconsciously. It is that way that makes life as our best “teacher” for it is instrumental in shaping each and every moment of our lives into a conscious living entity able to respond to the challenges the world poses. As I advanced in my student life, two things struck me; one is that life could be meaningful only if there would be a purpose to be fulfilled, some objectives to be achieve; the second thing is that life has a unique opportunity. The goal of life becomes clearer everyday. It is never just all about money, it is not an easy life, not the lure of sensate living which called us, but a clarion calls us to learn from life and take the meaning of it. I’ve learned to value life in a deeper way. Every second there are at least two babies born. A new life will come to see the world and to experience how to live with it, but the counterpart of it is about death. Things could easily come and go. Fear of death is instinctive and universal because there are few who understands the scientific and metaphysical implication of death. Life is a form or energy and energy is indestructible. Energy can only be transformed from one form to another as what I have learned in my Physics subject. Therefore, death can’t be an absolute annihilation of the eddy of life. Death can only be a point of transition in the process of evolution of life.

Both life and death are two things I experienced when I had my clinical duties in the hospitals. While I find this job training so rewarding, it is also incredibly upsetting. Working with sick patients who are struggling every second for a longer life especially infants is really emotionally touching. Watching their sufferings is painful. Some babies have chronic problems and the worst part of it is some of them will die and dies. I grieve for them and for their families and I witness many parents with broken hearts. Glancing back as my memory can take me into the hazy corridor of the past, I remembered our duty at the PICU, it was last Feb. 8, 2010. I will never forget the scenario how a baby boy and her mother caught my attention as I entered the PICU. It seems like there’s a light that isolate them in the crowd which tend to catch my attention. I walked toward them to see them closely and I first noticed the physical condition of the baby. I felt the sufferings he was enduring with many contraptions inserted to his innocent body. For more than a month after he was delivered he started to experience that pain. I can feel how it was difficult for the mother to see his first baby on that condition. I saw in her eyes how her heart breaks into pieces looking at her baby crying every time the medical technologist needs to get a sample of blood for couple of laboratory test. She may not expected all of those things to happen and never wish for that. When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, she is anticipating so much more than just a baby. Along with her hopes for a healthy baby, she has many optimistic expectations for this pregnancy, the labor and delivery and the newborn period. She starts forming a picture of the extended family. Indeed, she imagines being a certain kind of parent to a certain kind of baby, but when the baby was born prematurely, the tapestry that she’d been weaved abruptly changed. The thread becomes rough and vivid, and she’s not sure what to do with them. They are still the threads of feelings, the threads of her identity, but they have become more complex, more intense, more painful, and more challenging to work with. She feels unprepared. She cannot weave the pattern she’d planned. Her tapestry is not what she thought it would be.

I had a chance to talk to her and she said that she never got tired. She can bear the heavy burden just to keep her going for her baby and she never lost her strength to hold on. With full of conviction she said that she will never give up her baby even it is evident how difficult it is. But a few weeks after, she started to lose her hope that her baby will recover. She said that if she’s the one to decide she doesn’t want to lose her baby but at the back of her mind she wanted her baby to be at peace and to completely stop the suffering he was experiencing. It’s very difficult for her but she told me, “Once you become a mother your priority will change, your decisions and plans also change. You need to do what is best for your baby even if sometimes it might hurt you, because one of the highest form of love is letting somebody go”… She started to surrender everything to God and realized that whatever happens in the world it happens according to His law and His benevolence. She was standing at his bedside and she said, “When it gets to be too hard and you can’t fight anymore it’s okay to let go”. She had to say that. She had to let him go, because she certainly didn’t want him to suffer. For the parents whose baby spends days, weeks or month in the PICU, death is a frightening prospect. When you are in the unit, you can’t help but notice that this outcome is a possibility for a premature infant. You may let yourself think about death, but you may still feel haunted about it. After staying at the PICU for 8 hours duty it seems like time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear and too long for those who hope. An 8 hours duty for me seeing that baby seems like 1 year of waiting for him to be okay, but I realized how much more his parents are waiting for more than a month. I stepped out the PICU with so many questions in my mind, like what would happen next to the baby? How his parents can be more stronger fighting the odds from these type of life challenges and situation?

After being personally attached to that scenario I realized that I will go back to my real life being a daughter, a sibling and a student. I will go on with my real life while they are continuously holding on with that situation. Then I recognized that everyone has to travel along the path to faith or tragedy by his own effort, aided in a sense by destiny. Few weeks after, the other group was assigned to the PICU and unfortunately the baby was not there. They asked the staff nurse if the baby was discharged and the staff said that the baby passed away. I know death magnifies all the feelings of guilt, failure and longing. Emptiness seems endless and it requires a lot of time and emotional work to emotionally be able to “go on”. They will need to shed a certain number of tears or feel a certain number of pangs before they can accept their baby’s death. Every time they cry those particular tears or pangs are behind them and they moved along toward their healing. No tears are wasted. In spite of the unpredictable ups and downs of that painful journey, they can expect their grief to slowly soften yet not on overtime basis. Eventually they discover that they can remember their baby without falling apart. Their sadness and longing for their little one won’t disappear entirely, but they will mellow considerably. They can also acquire a sense of peace. They’ll never forget, their life will never be the same, and they’ll always bear scars, but their broken heart will heal. A year after I saw the parents of that baby boy I was happy because they remembered me but much more than that I was happy seeing them together holding hands and as I looked at them I knew they were moving on. It seems that a new life came on their way. I was very grateful that I had a chance to know them and I know I learned a lot from them. “When dark clouds of despair begin to gather on the horizon of life, when hope recedes and when even the will within you begins to crumble, hold yourself together, reinforce and never give up. Don’t lose the strength of conviction. Recover your will to live because when you have the will, there are always chances that you will weather the storm. It may seem difficult, it is. But the effort is worth it. That has life taught me, and that’s the real journey of life”…...

Jhonessa Jerusalem Layos

Laguna State Polytechnic University Santa Cruz Campus Santa Cruz, Laguna Batch 2012

The Twilight of Life
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Author: Jhonessa Jerusalem Layos BSN IV-A