Mourning, celebrating | Inquirer Opinion
Pinoy Kasi

Mourning, celebrating

I had my first COVID-19 vaccine in March, marked by excitement, even a selfie. I did get some strong reactions for three days but I felt “good,” imagining armies of antibodies being produced and marching through my body to protect me.

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I got my second “jab” on June 25, marked on my calendar “V-day.” July 9 was marked “V-day + 14,” referring to the two-week waiting period for the full vaccination to take full effect.

This time around, I had the usual pain on the injected arm but not much more. Yet, emotionally, I was actually in low spirits. I realized I was getting anxiety attacks, having absorbed all the news about COVID-19 surges throughout the world amid a stubborn resistance, among many, to getting the vaccinations amid conspiracy theories, misinformation, disinformation.

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It didn’t help coming down a week after the second jab with some mysterious illness with aches and pains and just a general malaise. The black mood I was in hovered like a dark cloud, and I knew it was coming mainly from the knowledge of a cousin in the hospital with severe COVID-19. He was not the first patient in my circle of family and friends but he was particularly close, both of us part of the post-war boomer generation. Anxiety and depression built up from not being able to visit, from getting all kinds of conflicting reports, sometimes through odd detours, like relatives overseas.

Like many clans, ours distributes particular responsibilities across generations. As we age, older members take up all kinds of loose responsibilities to keep businesses and households together, including emotional care for those even older than us. Because I continue to work full-time, I was considered second-liner but suddenly, I realized I had been drafted to take up some of the slack left by my cousin with his illness.

Then the news came one morning right before V-day Plus 14 — my cousin passed away early that day. A flurry of calls again on the next steps. It seems over the year our rituals around death have morphed: quick cremation within a few hours after death and the ashes brought home. Daily novenas all by Zoom and anyone could drop in but without people around to sit with you. Instead, we would talk with each other on the phone.

With my cousin’s death, the sky wasn’t just overcast. It was now dark clouds rushing in as we talked more now about the big question: Why was he infected with such fatal virulence, given that he had two shots? It’s called a breakthrough vaccine, a strange word to use given how a breakthrough’s original meaning is almost triumphant, in contrast to a breakthrough infection, with people asking, “what went wrong?”

Being from the “yold” (young old) generation, I have to do the hand-holding for people even older, assuring them breakthrough cases are very rare and as more people get vaccinated, reports of such cases would also increase. I give special attention to household staff who have been with us for years, some who got their shots at the same time with my cousin, reassuring them, the vaccines work.

It’s hard explaining the numbers from the scientific reports. In lay people’s terms, the focus is on that one death of someone we know, and we forget the millions of people who do get protected from being vaccinated in terms of not getting severely sick and from not dying.

I do worry about the Delta and other variants challenging the vaccines but if we slow down vaccinations, we will allow these variants to spread even more quickly.

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I look for the good that goes around, in particular the liberation of our minors from sequestration—malls apart, they can go outdoors, go to beaches, museums, properly masked with physical distancing.

I look forward as well to next weekend as we prepare for the funeral of my cousin, each mobilizing with our section of the now fragmented social frameworks.

I’ve been asked to share a few words, on behalf of our “boomer” generation and I will seek to console by emphasizing that while we mourn the loss of the life of a loved one to a breakthrough infection, we are comforted by the many others whose lives are secured by the vaccines. We will honor my cousin by celebrating his very full life, and by making sure his death will not be used to discredit the vaccines and put others in harm’s way.

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TAGS: COVID-19 Vaccination, Michael L. Tan, Pinoy Kasi
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