Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Mother Leans Towards Death -- (via Jean) -- reminds of me of the story of E who is a Filipina caregiver. For many years, she was the sole companion of a lady who died in July at 102. E told me the story of how the lady would often ask her to sing "My Darling Clementine" and the old lady always cries at the part --"you are lost and gone forever...dreadful sorry, Clementine." And every night the lady would say goodnight and goodbye to Emily just in case she doesn't wake up the next day. One day in July, the old lady went to sleep and never woke up.

Months later, E is sitting in my patio telling me the story with tears streaming down her face because she misses her. While I can only think of the emotional labor of women like E, I wanted to know if her love and caring for this lady was reciprocated by her heirs. Well...todate, she is still waiting to hear from them.

Now E is looking for another person to look after. She is a certified massage therapist and she has the gift of healing but she knows she could never make enough as a CMT in order to pay rent and send money to the Philippines.

What is the price of emotional labor? I think it's Robert Kuttner who says that in this new economy that Obama seeks to build, he should professionalize many of the human services jobs and compensate service providers adequately. I suppose this includes caregiving. I suspect that a lot of Filipina caregivers work in the informal economy in order to avoid having to split their earnings with a placement agency and that perhaps one of the unspoken expectations or hope is that when their client passes away, the heirs would see to it that the caregiver would also justly receive a severance pay. I don't think that happens very often.

I know several people who are leaning towards death these days and I find myself musing about the possibility of growing old in the Philippines as well because it just seems that the rituals of death and dying there are more wholistic and life-serving rather than death-defying. But why can't those same life-serving rituals be practiced here as well? What keeps us from doing so?

musings on a late saturday afternoon...

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