At about this time in November 2017, having signed my brother’s discharge from hospital after his doctors had determined “there’s nothing more on our shelves”, I officially became his frontline provider of “psychosocial oncologic care” — a name for meeting needs of people living with cancer which, in my brother’s case, was end stage prostate cancer.
Working at home with support of professional hospice care givers, I wish I knew then what I know now about end-of-life care; I wish I knew more about the limits of medical science and the health system about which it operates.
I wish I were more proactive in soliciting my brother’s world view — his hopes and fears, his wishes, his meaning-making — rather than being the passive, timid responder waiting for cues from him, that I have become.
I wish I knew more about the conjunctions of mortality and the good life.
Thus, by way of making up for a personal shortfall — and ease the continuing grief over my brother’s loss — I have started conversations on mortality, the better to grapple with its inevitability and linking it to day-to-day life.
Called “Conversations on Mortality and the Good Life”, it has drawn favorable comments from retired educators, professional health care providers, and even family carers who I chat up in hospital waiting rooms as I wait for a nephew to finish a dialysis treatment.
I’m in the process of developing and testing a pedagogy for such conversations with the intention of mainstreaming mortality and life in schools, churches and communities in Southern Philippines.