In loving memory of my godfather
That morning, the monsoon showers seemed to desperately cling on to the night’s dark beauty. It did not want to let go and be alone. It had courted loneliness throughout its life. But not this time. Not like this. It tried hard not to give away the paleness of its silvery veins and the agony in its thunderous lament. It felt disconnected even while its thousand teardrops were soaked in by vast green pastures.
The hospital ward was empty that grey morning when a deafening thunder jolted her from sleep. She could not recall when she had dozed off in that cold steel chair. She looked outside through the glass door. It had been raining hard throughout the night. As if it could not stop. Just not yet.
She put on the pale green robe hung outside the ICU. Tied a white mask covering her mouth and nose. Rubbed her hands with a liquid which smelled like alcohol. Covered her feet with puffy translucent plastic shoes. She floated through these hospital protocols with the deftness of a surgeon, with the same detachment to mundane affairs.
Over the past few months, the software engineer in her had turned into a medical researcher. Oncology, metastasis, androgen, prostatectomy – all these terms had become very familiar to her like lifelong companions. She tried to gather as much information as possible on the metastasis of prostate cancer, treatment options, side-effects and risks involved. She could not afford to have any loose ends. She had to be in control. Destiny is an unreliable friend, she felt. Cannot risk leaving the life of her father to it.
Her father was a respected researcher at a highly reputed research institute. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer over a year back. Since then, he had been under hormonal treatment. The doctors had given him less than a year to live. His condition worsened a few weeks back. The cancer had metastasized into his bones. Chemotherapy had started.
Chemo is like flooding a street to remove the dirt on a window. A massive invasion of the body with chemicals. A cellular holocaust. Huge amounts of healthy cells die in the attempt to wipe out the diseased ones. The result of this collateral damage is the total breakdown of the immune system, making the body prone to infections. The cancer-ridden body of her father with a weakened immune system developed a nasty lung infection.
The rain grew louder as the beauty of the night started drifting away. She stepped into the ICU. An array of machines and tubes greeted her in their usual monotony. All parameters of the body could be seen as a set of blinking numbers and zig-zag lines on the many screens arranged around him. Here life gets reduced to a sequence of numbers, she mused. Oxygen was pumped directly into his lungs as it became increasingly difficult for him to breathe due to the lung infection. Her mother and younger brother were sitting near the bed. They took turns to stay up during the night. Now they could go and rest(!) as she had arrived.
She was fully aware of the weight of the day ahead. The chemo had been stopped when the lung got infected and the breathing became tough. Now, the focus was to contain the infection. But this was tricky as the nature of the infection could not be found. That means a race against time which he does not have: a trial and error approach from an array of medicines for lung infection. So far, no medicine could reduce the big silvery patches on the X-ray of his chest. The clock was ticking.
Most of the close relatives had arrived a few days back. One by one, they used to go near her father. Most of them did not have anything to say. Sometimes, he talked to them with great effort through his oxygen mask. Sometimes, he simply smiled. But she felt the pangs of death getting closer every time a visitor came. She saw pain and sympathy in their eyes, but she spotted an absence of hope too. A surrender to fate. Acceptance of death. This made her furious. She could not accept how easy it was for people to let go, even for the near and dear ones.
The medicines did not seem to have an effect on the infection. Doctors had given up. Relatives had given up. Her own mother seemed to have given up. She knew that her father was in great agony. Soon, no amount of painkillers would be able to contain his pain. “Isn’t it time to let go?” she heard the world ask. The doctors were pushing her, often angrily, for stopping all the treatment, and letting him die. They said she was torturing him every second she tried to keep him alive . Relatives called her heartless; merciless to let her own father suffer.
She placed her hands over his. She wished he would grab her hand. Or show a slight twinge. Something. To let her know that he understood. That she was making the right choice. That he believed in her. How could she let this man, her rock, slip away? How could she make a choice to kill her own father? No one would understand her pain. It is just not logical to give up. It doesn’t make any sense. Some medicine ought to work. She always believed that a miracle was waiting just around the corner. How could she stop searching when she had travelled this far? Why not search behind the next corner? What if he woke up the next second?
She felt his hand grabbing her fingers. Weak hands on pale fingers. As if he could not let her little child fall. As if he wanted to let her know that he understood. That he loved her. That everything was going to be alright.
The last vestiges of the night left the horizon, leaving the monsoon rain all alone. Now it rained a melancholy strain, the pain of letting go puddled between its lines. An apt musical eulogy.