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Diario de Navarra
José Benigno Freire
Lecturer at School of Education and Psychology
Although it could have happened anywhere, I will tell you the story of Manueliña (assumed name), 85 years old. He lived in a residency program in Lugo and was infected with covid, along with ten others. They were transferred to another better equipped residency program in Orense. Two or three days later he died... His family was notified and a very sad funeral was held in Lugo, with the coffin sealed, strictly following the protocols of the pandemic.
Well, ten days later Manueliña appeared at residency program in Lugo, alive and kicking, in perfect condition and cured of the coronavirus. The astonishment and joy of her relatives, especially her disconsolate husband, was indescribable. They made an identification error in the transfer. An unjustifiable error, although excusable because Manueliña's mental capacities were impaired and, possibly, she could have listened to any name.
Stunned, I asked myself: what happened to the relatives of the woman who did die? No news for so many days? Or perhaps, because of the confusion of names, they received reports of another sick woman? Or did they not communicate? Or were they simply waiting for news...? In any case, another woman who left very light of affection... even without a name!
This event has triggered a flood of memories of the misfortunes suffered by the elderly in the last long months: lack of care resources, lack of medical support in nursing homes, suffering and (necessary) isolation, beds in the corridors, the spectacle of the morgue and field hospitals, loneliness... And that order that should never have been issued: do not bring the elderly to hospitals...
Poor generations! From sixty-five to ninety-something years old; that is, those born from the thirties to the twilight of the forties and early fifties. Most of them grew up with the hunger of the war, or with the rationing card. And they raised a country in rubble until almost settling the welfare society. They achieved this with endless conference of work, with miserable salaries, without means, without vacations or breaks, perhaps emigrating to establish a family patrimony; and a great capacity to save by reducing expenses to a minimum. An austere life, or a life of hardship, supported by the illusion of improving the future of their children. And it was they, too, at the end of the seventies, who ate their tears or their anger to clear the horizon of social coexistence.
And when life was giving them a well-deserved peace of mind, the covid cut it short. Of course, we tried to take care of them in the best conditions, although perhaps something more could have been done. The professionals and family members showed dedication and affection. The "commanders" prioritized their vaccination; although some disenchanted people might have thought that it was a tactic to reduce hospital admissions and ICU places. Perhaps, at the same time that they received heroic care and heartfelt tributes, they heard that: it is not the same for a person of ninety to die as for a person of twenty. The dead did not hear it; the living did....
And the living -with the usual exceptions-, skeptical or impotent, continued to give glimpses of tenderness and zest for life. Their joy at being reunited with their children and grandchildren was radiant; the joy of their first walks; their gratitude to their caregivers; their stoicism in the face of past hardships... And that image of the couple of sick old people linking hands each one from their bed. How touching and enviable to see two old people who love each other in the autumn of life!
These grandparents, the living ones, deserve a profound thanks: we owe a great deal to those generations. Let us shower with tenderness and pity what is denied to them by those who legislate with an eye to votes and posturing. First of all, by lavishing them with the care and attention they need until the last drop of life is squeezed out of them: we have seen the strength, the eagerness with which they cling to it! And then, without sentimentality, verbalize our gratitude to them. Remind them of their financial aid in that stress or some endearing moment of childhood, accompanied by a post-pandemic hug. Or any little thing that points to the heart and triggers a placid cascade of emotions, because in old age emotions are either sour or numb.
If they do not turn sour, they hide a tear that summarizes and savors all the hardships and joys of a life. Those tears, which emerge from affection, cry out: life was worth living! Perhaps to some kind reader these lines smell of affectionate jam. Perhaps... Or, perhaps, it may manifest the affective lack of not having felt the depth of loving for the simple sake of loving, without utilities. That which Pedro Salinas so beautifully expressed: "What a joy to live feeling lived! To surrender to the great certainty, darkly, that another being, outside of me, far away, is living me".