Facing the inevitable | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2010

Non-fiction

Facing the inevitable


Photo: Lit Qumrrun Naher

Mati by name and major general by age fifty five, he had a tough life. At the time of his death he was adjutant general at army headquarters. He had lived hard, and had always been a bit of a loner, spending time regularly in a quiet corner of the room with a cigarette. He was a devout Muslim, a loving husband and a caring father. He had been in the army, fought for the liberation of Bangladesh. A grateful nation conferred the Bir Protik gallantry award on him for his bravery in 1971. But he always told young people, “There's nothing special about me; it is all about determination and it is self-belief that makes you a soldier. There's nothing ever more satisfying than serving your country as a soldier”.
It was November 1998 when I noticed the deteriorating state of my father's health. So, I took a few days leave from my studies to attend to him. When I saw his emaciated face and irregular breathing pattern, I knew there was not much we could do. Mati had understood that the end was near; and he didn't want any heroic measures. He was first admitted to CMH, Dhaka and then referred to National Cancer Hospital, Singapore. It was in Singapore that the extent of his illness became known. The hospital changed its approach from resuscitation to palliation, to allow him to die with as much dignity and comfort as possible. He was advised him fly back to Dhaka and be around his family and friends as long as possible.
After reaching Dhaka, it was not how to save a life, but how to manage death. Therefore, Mati was transferred from the Intensive Care Unit into a VIP room of CMH, Dhaka. He didn't appear to be in any distress and didn't appear to have any pain. He was deeply unconscious. It was an hour before he died, but it seemed longer. It was a busy night as lots of people came to see him for the last time. I have never witnessed such a death. While people frequently die alone in their sleep, usually it goes unnoticed. But in his case, it was witnessed by family and friends. In many ways Mati's death was a good one as he was finally relieved of his long suffering.
Death is an inevitable part of life. We learn to accept it with equanimity, to do our best to help the family through arriving at an understanding of inevitability. We try to give the grieving family and friends an explanation of what has happened and why. We hear the stories of some of their loved ones, and we often share a tear. We offer tissues and sympathy.
When everything was over, I stood alone in Mati's room. It was quiet. His eyes were sunken. His skin was pale and cold. His pulse was absent, absent were his respirations. The pupils were fixed and dilated. At 05:15 hours on 28 November 1998, he was dead.
He was an exceptional man who had extraordinary strength and character. He remains my role model in all that I do. With his departure, I have lost the best of all.

Qumrun Naher is Deputy Director of UK Trade and Investment, British High Commission, Bangladesh.

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