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A father’s wish fulfilled

When a person moves closer towards death, he may experience a surge of energy as he gets nearer. He may talk to loved ones, or ask for food after days of no appetite.

This surge of energy may be unnoticed, but it is usually a dying person’s final physical expression before moving on.

The main fear of death in most cases is due to a fear of the unknown.

On Sunday, my beloved father passed away. He was 77-years-old. And before he died, he had this surge of energy, witnessed by me and my cousins.

No matter how much you prepare for this moment, death arrives in its own time, and in its own way.

Then a dilemma arose, and it was one I was not prepared for. We had to decide whether to have the doctor remove the pacemaker from his chest. A pacemaker is a small device inserted in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms.

This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.

When the doctor pronounced him dead, the doctor and the nurse asked if I wanted them to take his pacemaker out.

I was still in a state of shock from his death, but had to suddenly decide if I want the doctor to cut my father open and pull out the pacemaker.

I called my sister in the US and told her the sad news, and also asked if I should have the pacemaker removed from his body. She did not know the answer.

His wish was to be cremated, like the majority of Buddhists in Cambodia, but we weren’t sure if it mattered that the pacemaker was inside his body.

I called my girlfriend and luckily her husband works in the medical field, and he said the pacemaker must be removed before cremation.

The intense heat of the cremation process could make the pacemaker explode, endangering people and damaging equipment.

Pacemakers contain mercury that would be released into the atmosphere, and there is a danger of an explosion.

Other large metallic pieces, such as jewellery and prosthetics, should be removed before cremation as well.

The nurse advised me that the pacemaker would explode during the cremation, but I wasn’t sure, and I had to make a quick decision during this emotional state which I was in.

“Go ahead,” I said. “Take out the pacemaker”.

The doctor performed the surgery at Wat Than pagoda, where my father’s body would be for five days. I watched my father’s chest being opened, the pacemaker being removed, and the chest being stitched back together.

It was a shocking experience.

When a person is ready to die and you are able to let go, saying goodbye is your final gift of love.

The tears are a normal and natural part of saying goodbye.

I have done both this week.

My father, Prince Norodom Vatvani, was cremated at Wat Than Pagoda in Phnom Penh yesterday. He is finally now at peace and where he wished to be, in his homeland of Cambodia.                        

The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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