Looking Without

This last holiday, I was at a district hospital for some work experience. And while there, a man died!

Just before we started the morning rounds, I wandered off from the rest of my gang only to later realise that they had congregated at a particular bed. I joined them out of curiosity only to find a man in distress. It was his first post-operative day following what I thought to be a simple procedure. I remarked to whom appeared to be in charge that something had to be done fast or else the man would surely die. We did all we could before handing him over to higher authorities. Unfortunately, he died before he could get onto the operating table.

We had finished the rounds and now at a restaurant just outside of the hospital premises for lunch when our colleague that had been closely engaged in the situation broke the news. I knew it was plausible yet I wouldn’t bet my money on it; that he would die. Like I said, it was a relatively simple procedure and his later complications amenable to surgical intervention. We quickly started evaluating our actions prior to his death and after we had fully exonerated ourselves of any responsibility in the matter, we went on with our food. However, we could hear the wail of a woman just outside from where we were and we were sure that it was indeed a sombre event.


As we walked back to the hospital from our lunch, I heard some one call out to me. She cried out, “Musawo! Musawo! Omwami wange agenze!” (“Doctor! Doctor! My husband is gone!”) She was the wife of the man who had just died and the one that was by his side while we deliberated on his life and tried to resuscitate him before he could be taken to theatre. I was totally unprepared for the situation before me and so did not know how to react. Unsure of myself, I stopped if only to show that I had taken note of her pain. I looked around and saw a nurse much senior to me and smiled sheepishly as if saying to her, “Lend me your wisdom! What should I do?” But all she did was smile back to me as if saying, “Hmm, what are you doing now? Just ignore her and move on with your life.”


I wiped the sheepish smile off my face and managed a sympathetic look at the lady who I hoped could see me clearly from ten metres away. Then I shouted out a sympathetic phrase, stood there respectfully for a few more seconds and moved on with my life. I didn’t want to move any closer even if that’s what I thought was appropriate in this situation for fear of appearing too emotional about the affair in front of my colleagues. Then I went down to my room, composed myself and typed out the story you are reading now.


Last semester, a dear friend of mine lost his father. Now though he is dear and that was a truly sombre experience for him, I did not instinctively feel for him. I took a pause, took in the event and was then appropriately emotional about it. I could not concentrate on my work cos now I could not take my mind off of how he probably felt, what he was doing or how the mood was where he was versus where I was.


A good number of us his friends and classmates boarded a bus to go take part in the burial rituals. Now while it was a grand gesture, I could not help to question whether the mood in this bus full of mourners was appropriate. It seemed to be more of a joy ride. We chatted and laughed, caught up and bonded and got drunk on the way back to school. Oh, we also took selfies.


While taking refuge from the noise at the back of the bus (because I felt the prodrome of a migraine), I remarked to a friend, “People don’t mourn,” with a full-stop, not an exclamation mark. Not to say that people are never sorry for your loss but that they are never quite as sorry as they’d be had it been them in your shoes. And even if they cry, it might not be for your sake.


There is so much going on these days; life has become nearly too complicated. Everyone has a lot to deal with before they can even add your issues to their plate. It takes a lot for a man to shift his attention from the chaos within and immediately around him to the issues of another man; sometimes even one very dear to him. But these are the cords of love that bind us: that when you cry, I cry with you and rejoice with you when good fortune befalls you. So if you are like me, nearly always looking within and only occasionally without, this is my biased and never humble opinion, pause, take it in and allow yourself to react appropriately to the needs of those dearest to you.

Featured Image: From when not to attend a funeral


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