AN EMAIL FROM SENTHIL KUMAR
Hi Prof. Dominic,
I am really sorry in delaying my reply. When I opened my inbox, I found three of your mails expressing anguish and even anger at my silence. I am sure when you read this mail your anger will dissolve and turn into sympathy.
As you know my mother has been staying with me for several years and she has been under treatment for heart problem since 1990. When my wife and I go to office, my mother would sit alone in the house as the housekeeper. Though she is now eighty she can manage her personal affairs by herself. She used to take her food and medicine at the regular times. So things were going on very smooth even in our absence from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Though I wanted to appoint a servant, my wife was against it, since an outsider in our house would steal away our privacy. And my mother also insisted that she would manage herself without a servant or home-nurse.
My mother is over-sentimental by nature and as she was aging this sentimentalism also grew up. The tragic or premature deaths of people as it appeared in the newspaper everyday would move her mind to such an extent that she would start crying, tears flowing down her cheeks. Her doctor has advised us that her heart couldn’t bear any tension or sorrow and we should see that she was always happy. So we stopped subscription of the Tamil newspaper and managed with only The Hindu. My brothers, sisters and I came to a decision that no one would tell mother sad and unpleasant things whenever they visit her.
Meanwhile my mother’s younger sister, living with family some fifty kilometers away from our place, was admitted in the hospital and we were informed. She fell down from her bed while getting up and she could not stand up or walk. We went to the hospital telling mother that we were going for a marriage feast. We were sure that God would forgive us for telling this lie to mother. When we reached the hospital we found that our aunt was in the ICU and the doctor reported that she had had a stroke and she has become paralysed. We returned to our house in the evening. Mother enquired us about the marriage dinner, the whereabouts of the spouse etc. etc. We had to add lies to lies as to satisfy her. The aunt was discharged from the hospital after two weeks as the doctors could do nothing more. She is still bed-ridden and has now completed two years on the bed—can’t speak, can’t memorise, the food being spoon-fed. And our mother also lives here quite innocent of her sister’s tragedy. She would sometimes enquire us about the aunt’s news and request us to phone her. We would tell her that the aunt was perfectly healthy in her house. We have informed our cousins that we had told such an inevitable lie to our mother and whenever they visit her they should not tell her the truth.
Once when one of my brothers met with an accident and broke his leg I was compelled to tell mother that he had a little injury caused by some very minor bike accident. Suddenly mother started sobbing and the pumping of the heart slowed down. As the breathing became very slow and difficult she was immediately admitted to the hospital. After injections of medicine and supply of oxygen she recovered after one week. The doctor warned us against telling such sad news to her. Thank God, she has had a very loose memory since then that after she was discharged from the hospital she forgot about my brother’s accident and his injury. She would often enquire me about that brother and why he was not visiting her. I would reply that he was very busy with his cloth business there in his town. After his recovery he visited her as usual and she was happy at seeing him.
Then one day we received a phone call from the house of our uncle—mother’s youngest brother, living some sixty kilometers away from our house—telling us that the uncle was admitted in the hospital and was very serious. Telling mother another lie we flew to the hospital. The uncle was very critical and sinking. The doctor said that the recovery was impossible. Uncle’s lungs had severe spores and would meet with his end within a few days. We were again in a dilemma. This uncle is the most favourite one to our mother among her brothers and sisters. Since our mother’s father and mother died young, it was our mother who looked after this uncle. She was indeed a mother to him. Whenever this uncle came to our house, the exchange of love between them often envied us. Now, he at his point of death, what shall we do? He is not old, but only 65. What will happen to our mother if the news was imparted to her? We decided not to inform our mother of the uncle’s critical case. But our prayer for his life was of no use and he died in the hospital after a week. We were telephoned about his death. We were in a dilemma again. How will we tell our mother that her most beloved brother is no more? The very news will end her life. Is it a sin to hide such fatal news from our mother? What would our relatives and other people say when they know that we had hidden the news from her and not allowed her to see her dearest brother’s stilled body before it was cremated? The doctor’s warning echoed in our ears as mother’s death knells. We thought about it over and again for several minutes. Finally we came to a conclusion that our mother’s life is precious to us and so we have to sustain her life. We went for the burial telling mother another lie of attending a marriage. We announced to the bereaved family that mother was not in a position to travel so long.
Thus mother continued her life with only happy memories. In fact her life was sustained by the heavy doze of medicines thrice a day. Another year passed slowly. One day as I was busy with files in my office I received a phone call. “Brother Senthil, it’s me Muthu calling from your house. Please come fast, for mother is very serious.” “Muthu, I am coming.” I dashed to my house in my car. Mother was lying on her bed with her eyes shut and breathing with much difficulty. I cried, “Mother, mother.” But she was not replying. “Muthu, when did you come here?” I asked. “I came fifteen minutes ago to invite you all to my father’s death anniversary.” Muthu is the eldest son of my above mentioned uncle who passed away one year back. “Oh, you then told mother the purpose of your visit. We hadn’t informed mother of your father’s death as it will worsen her condition,” I added. “I didn’t know that brother. Very sorry,” he apologized. “Let’s take mother to the hospital soon.” I suggested. We took mother immediately to the hospital. The doctor gave her injections and oxygen. Her blood was taken for diagnosis. I phoned to my wife, brothers and sisters. They all arrived in the hospital within half an hour. Mother was taken to the ICU and we were not permitted to see her. After two hours the doctor informed us that mother had had a severe stroke. The recovery seems impossible. Her life may pull on but she is paralysed. Just like her younger sister she too became bed-ridden. Mother was discharged from the hospital yesterday and lies in my house longing for her death.
Hope you have understood my position. You can do nothing to soothe me. Kindly pray for my mother.