A reflection on family networks and Thailand, after a terminal illness and funeral

Grateful reflections on the Thai family & friend networks that provided amazing support throughout my German mother-in-law's terminal illness and death. We human beings are not as independent as some of us may like to think!

Where to start.

My German mother in law (MIL) recently passed away after three years of fighting cancer. She lived with us for more than two of those years.

As with anything so momentous as a person's severe illness and death, the experience for those of us remaining was...well, obviously different for eachdepending on our personal relationship with the deceased, our personality, and also our cultural heritage.

The Thai family network

The one thing that struck me throughout was the strength of the Thai family network. They were amazing, and I can't think of any other word for it (other than 'incredible'!).

It's all fine having just the nuclear family when the going is good. But in times of trouble, the extended family really comes into the fore.

The Thai family was so incredibly supportive, accompanying my MIL to her hospital appointments and helping to communicate with the Thai medical staff, spending hours and hours in the hospital room with her because the crazy hospital required 24-hours attendance for in-patients, running around town to find the best supplies and equipment, finding and bringing healthy and tasty food that might still be to her ailing taste, helping with immigration matters to extend her visa every 90 days or so, and taking care of this that and the other thing....

Without them, my husband, the primary caregiver, would have collapsed. And as my primary role was to care for the caregiver, I am immensely grateful for the extended family for the support they gave to him, and by extension to me and our kids.

And other networks

MIL was an isolated person who had very few contacts, even in Germany. Yet, the Thai traditional funeral that we held drew 60, 70, 80 people every day.

Who were they? Even MIL might have asked. They were extended Thai family members, family friends, friends of the sons, the household staff, important contacts and staff from the sons' companies, and even former staff.

It was incredible to witness how we humans are in fact never standing alone, no matter how we may want to believe we are independent. Our relationships and actions cast a ripple effect all around to those who are linked to us in a huge web.

I'm sure MIL had no idea that she was connected to this many people!

The good heart of Thais

MIL may not have been so impressed with the social web had she even had any inkling about it, but I'm sure she fully appreciated the kindness and good-heartedness of the Thai people who took care of herfrom the household staff who cooked and cleaned for her, the driver who drove her to frequent hospital appointments and stays, and (most especially) to the two women who cared for her 24 hours a day during the difficult last weeks...they were all entirely given over to making things better for MIL in whatever way they could.

They were all 'jai dii'good-hearted. And we're ever so grateful for them and their presence in our lives.


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