Technology reshapes the way we approach death

在互联网络高度发达的今天,随着从语音到现场图像等电子信息的广泛传播, 互联网让我们的生活得到彻底改变,其中包括我们死亡的方式。
Transmitting digital information instantly -- from sound recording to images of reality, the internet has changed every aspect of the way we live our lives – including the way we approach death.  
我母亲最小的弟弟,我的舅舅是我们家中第一个在网络时代死去的老人。 80岁高龄的他在中国因患感冒后住院。但感冒很引发了更为严重的肺炎。
My uncle – my mother’s youngest brother was the first one in our family who experienced dying in the internet age. At a senior age of 80, he was hospitalized in China after suffering from cold, which quickly turned to be more severe problem of pneumonia.
The sad news about his ailing health spreads through the WeChat family group -- who scatter across three continents and span over three generations – from his teenaged nephews to his elder siblings.  With daily images and video of my uncle lying on the hospital bed, the news has instantly gone viral, wrenching the heartstrings of each and everyone of the group members – who either shared genetics and DNA with him or relate to him through their loved ones. Day-by-day, and week-by-week, posts filled with love, care and good wishes have poured in, making him an instant celebrity of the family. 
在他住院不久后,在美国密歇根州的、舅舅的侄孙在他入院后不久发帖: “大家别担心,三爷爷的仪器显示他的血压和血氧饱和度正常。”
“Don’t worry too much,” one of his nephews’ son posted from Michigan US, soon after the uncle was admitted into the hospital. “The machine reading shows normal level of blood pressure and blood oxygen saturation level. “
 But more gloomy status report soon indicated that my uncle’s illness progressed rapidly, leaving him losing lung functions and slipping in and out of coma. As hope of his recovery diminished, my mother wrote a story, giving a vivid account of his younger brother’s vibrant life and career achievement. Her story soon resonated with everyone in the WeChat group, with many following suit in memorizing the emotional bond with the uncle and commemorating his warmth and kindness.
我一个表弟的妻子发帖写道, “舅舅是我的婚姻红娘,在他的撺掇下, 我和他的侄子成了婚......当时我还年轻,是舅舅的一名同事,他为了我们的婚事费了不少心机。”
“He was the matchmaker of my marriage with my husband – one his nephews… At the time, I was a young and just becoming new college of the uncle, and he went out his way to make sure that I and my husband would tie the knot,” one of my cousin’s wife posted.
The technology allowed the article and comments to be quickly brought to his bedside, and my uncle’s eyes swelled with tears as he was read to when occasionally waking up from coma.
The doctor suggested more invasive treatment – which may cause more physical and phycological pain to the patient -- to save his life. Losing his consciousness and lacking a will, he was inadvertently forced to forfeit the right of choosing his treatment options, allowing his families to act on his behalf. But the issue was soon dividing group members.
最能令人接受的建议似乎是采用一切办法延长他的生命。 “我们应该鼓励他顽强地活下去,坚持到底就是胜利。”
The most popular suggestions seemed to be to extend his life by resorting to any avenue in sight. “We should encourage him to fight it till the very end, using every possible way to keep him alive.” 
But others adapting to the ideology of peacefully letting go suggested avoiding any further treatment that cannot provide a cure but adding too much pain:
“舅舅虽然没有遗嘱,但他一定希望自己能平静安详地离去…… 这种让他延长生命的治疗方式虽暂时给我们带来一些慰籍,但却会让舅舅饱受折磨。
“While uncle did not leave a will, experiencing a peaceful death must have been what he wanted… The treatment would be torturing him. Extending his life in this way may offer us some comfort temporarily but make him suffer much more.”
Uncle may hardly be aware of most part of the concerns and cares among his loved ones, but he sure has embarked on a different life-end journey than any other family members who had died before him – including my father. Unable to fly back home at the time when my father was dying in hospital two decades ago, I’ve been torn by a lifelong regret that I did not have a chance to see my father’s peaceful smile when he was leaving the world. 

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