TODAY -

A visit too late

Dr Keisang Mekhulsim Maring *



Anytime you may be called for eternity. And that day may close on you unexpectedly; great would be the remorse, had you lived out only for yourself. You need a break amid busy schedule - Oh, modern man.

I will never forget those days of December 2003 through first week of June 2004, till my dying day, because they were the last days of my classmate John (name changed).

One fine morning, I woke up little late to find my body and mind not so invigorated as usual; and late night studies could be blamed for, since our final Cl-XII selection exam was in progress. My mind was encumbered with too much reading. Wash up did pep me up to some extent. The day was 6th Dec 2003.

After I put on the school uniform, I hurried out of the room into a chilly morning for school. When I reached school, I found my classmates - all looked staid and dreary - significantly didn't put on the usual robe of boisterous life that day; maybe either they didn't get much sleep the previous night or some divine hunch tranquilized them.

In the middle bench was my seat. Our physics teacher, whose humor filled-lectures always drive away the tedium of everyday life, appeared along with some others. The bell rang; they began distributing question papers and answer sheets. One seat remained unoccupied. Then, John's absence was picked out by the entire class before too long.

Inquisitiveness crept into his mind, the teacher enquired curiously, "Where is John? What happened to him?" Someone at the back replied grimly, "Sir, he's down with blood cancer and is hospitalized currently". He shrieked shockingly, "Blood cancer! Oh, he's waiting then for death!" I was left awestruck profoundly on hearing that. This boy, I tell you, was brilliant, jovial, daring and full of life, but abhorred everything of the spiritual aspect.

And he wouldn't welcome readily any sort of spiritual counseling. I came out of the exam feeling completely dismal that day. Something within insisted me to gear up to witness his last days, whereupon I decided to visit him possibly after the exam. However, he was referred to a cancer hospital in Bangalore - so I couldn't visit him then.

Two months later I was told that John had been sent back home and no blood cancer was found, and was improving. No blood cancer? And improving? How? Isn't that weird? I sure was thoroughly deluded, and so was driven to deferring my visit. I thought to myself, "So good to hear he's no cancer. I'll visit him some other time." Perhaps, the devil beguiled me into thinking that way. Yet deep in the core of my heart; a prompting continued to riddle me.

One day my friend Samuel broke the news of his death to me. I cursed the day in dismay blaming the devil for everything bad. It was heart-wrenching to hear that.

Unfortunately, after a long illness John couldn't pull through. He died young. I felt guilty and full of remorse for not being there alongside him during his bitter last days at least for a day. On the same day Samuel and I made time to visit the bereaved family in the evening. On reaching the locality, from the main road we followed a small route serpentine in its course amongst the houses. At its end, a wooden gate lay half open hedged with bamboo stuffs on either side encompassing the house.

As we moved in, I saw a woman with a mournful look standing apathetically in the corridor, few benches and chairs jumbled up in the compound with a casing of tent above. The whole picture portrayed was hushed and unwelcoming. A minute later, she walked up towards us. We offered a handshake and introduced ourselves as John's classmates.

Our word was no consoling to her grief-stricken heart; conversely it did afflict her. And she turned, and slunk away towards the back wall of the neighbor's house. There facing the wall - seemingly to make her cries out of earshot - she stooped down, and broke out into tremendous tears and sobbing, crying, "My son, my son, your friends are here. Come back." She cried and cried until her voice died down. Vainly her cries diffused into the air.

The heavens looked brass, hard enough to bar the prayers from reaching the miracle-working Almighty. Everything seemed deaf and unmoved to her cry. No miracle ever happened. We were just silent spectators, not a single word we uttered. Besides her weeping cries, I heard some voices, presumably of the comforters, coming from inside the house.

After about 5 minutes long mourning, she came back slowly and sat down in front of me, and spoke up with weak muffled voice, her swollen eyes red, and streaks of tears on the face. I did my utmost in whatever way I possibly could to console her. She recounted John's last days saying, "My son, on his deathbed, was always referring to one of his classmates, who would speak about God; and he wished to see him".

I interrupted her and said, "That's me, Aunty" She was taken aback. "Oh, dear, why didn't you come and talk with him?" She sobbed. "He would be very happy to hear you." I replied empathetically, "I tried to visit him and share God's word, but something kept me from doing it." "He did repent of his sins before he breathed last." she recalled rather calmly.

Meanwhile, John's sister came, tall and thin, and served us tea.. Her gloomy look provided me with a perception of deep seated sorrow within her, and even more because she remained unspoken for few minutes long. On hearing about his repentance, peace dropped into my heart, because it was his salvation that I was concerned about largely. We learnt that his dead body had been buried the previous day. "Aunty, I am happy to hear that he repented. Stop mourning."

I consoled, "Someday we are going to see him in heaven. It's for the sake of the greater good that he's called home". Quoting some comforting scriptures, I could bring her to the realization that we are just a passerby in this world and physical death is just a transit to heaven.

The father showed up, walking around the corridor, and came towards us. He presented himself like a man whose condescen- sion won't let him put across the grief outwardly. But his countenance betrayed him. By now the sun was nearing the horizon, and we left.

One day, a month later, I happened to be at the shop of my friend Santos. I saw a couple coming towards the shop. They were John's parents, I recognized. I greeted them and said to John's mother, "Aunty, how are you? You remember me?" She looked up and paused for a moment. Once she recognized me, her right hand, skinny and slender, reached down to grab the fringe of her cloth, and wiped off with it the tears that flowed down her cheeks. And then they walked away.


* Dr Keisang Mekhulsim Maring wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at kmekhulsim(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)in
This article was posted on September 21, 2012.



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