February 2016


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Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana

Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana

Rebeca Monzo, 1 February 2016 — As if there weren’t enough problems surviving in this country, even after death you continue to confront problems, only they fall on the friends and family members of the deceased. Hence, that old and well-known phrase, “The dead to the hole and the living to the chicken [i.e. dinner table]” no longer applies.

This is a country with an aging population, and as a consequence, deaths are frequent. Recently there have been several deaths in the area when I live, some of which I can comment on as a witness. The saddest of all was a great friend from my childhood who, given her personal characteristics and physical condition, her death was unthinkable.

This friend appeared to be having a stroke so she was immediately admitted to the hospital closest to her home, El Fajardo. She was put in intensive care where she spent several days on an artificial respirator. When she died on January 26th, complicating the original diagnosis was a bacterial infection she acquired after she was admitted.

The hospital made the necessary arrangements for the wake, but there were no funeral homes available in the Plaza district, where she lived. Some were closed because they were undergoing repairs, and others, like the National, for being in very poor condition.

Finally, with a little greasing of palms, they managed to find one at Zapata and Paseo Streets, where the family could hold the wake while waiting her turn to be cremated, which they were warned could take two or three days. So, using the same “persuasive methods,” they managed to schedule it for that night. Everything now depended on whether they could get the only vehicle available to move the coffin to Guanabacoa, where the crematorium is.

Her family members were told that in two days, maximum, they would get a call from the funeral home to collect the ashes. One of the granddaughters, now desperate, commented to me, “Seeing how badly things work here, who can assure me that when they are delivered they will really be the ashes of my grandmother.”

“May God rest her soul,” I told her. I was the only consolation I could give her.