Do not die these days. It can be grim and lonely. Not only will you be buried immediately, you also do not get the benefit of being given the proper wake. This is part of protocol to contain the virus.
But the worst that can happen is the almost automatic impression or wonder if the cause of death is COVID. Not that this virus torments the body than any other disease, but people’s judgment, one that carries dread and terror, tortures the soul more than anything else. This is a double whammy to the dead.
I know the feeling (I’m still alive as of this writing, thank you.) because I was unfortunate to get phished (for lack of a better term) by an online glitch of this paper. A news report about COVID had my picture as its thumbnail whenever it is shared to others.
While it was immediately corrected by our online technicians, it did not evade notice by my friends. And their reactions showed it all! They were not just surprised, they were utterly worried, as if the blunder was so serious it can ruin my reputation forever.
While I was concerned about it, I knew it was not fatal. And if I were to actually contract COVID, I would even have a press release to let everyone know there is nothing shameful about it.
I believe the stigmatization of those who contract the virus bring about more suffering than the actual illness itself. Many of our brethren who are positive are asymptomatic and do not at all feel anything life threatening.
Yet the burden on the mind and soul lingers when neighbors and friends create a psychological wall that all the more isolate the infected or even recovered person.
How can we stop this? First, by becoming more educated about the nature of the illness. Second, by recognizing that we are no different than those who are infected. Sooner or later, we shall also contract the virus if the spread is not mitigated. We are all vulnerable in this war although not at all utterly defenseless.
Stigma puts a psychological mark on our being and it is more difficult to erase nor tamper, than the virus itself. A stigmatized person will continue to feel insecure, dirty, and humiliated long after the response of the people surrounding her has been neutralized.
Why? Because the soul, when wounded and tarnished, requires the analgesic of consistent love and reassurance to reverse the effect of stigma. For all we know, love these days are harder to get by and sustain than what we can buy in the drugstores.
There is this sort of appeal circulating on Facebook, reposted by well-meaning people, asking everyone to render respect and compassion to everyone who has contracted COVID. It is asking people to refrain from taking a video or photograph of those who are infected and use these to humiliate the person.
The humiliation is clearly unnecessary, out of the line. Contracting the virus does not make you a criminal or a murderer. There are worst things than getting sick with COVID. The ones that kill body and soul, these are the real deal.
Whether we are to be blamed for the virus’ existence and its attending effect to us, it doesn’t matter much. What is important now is to be more sensitive to other’s needs. COVID is just like any other virus, and soon we will be victorious in this war.
But if we want to heal as one, we need to feel as one as well. So, stop the stigma.