Rahmath died a couple of days back at the age of 53.
It is a good rule not to have favorites among patients. We should give them all our unconditional love and unconditional respect, whether they are smiling or crying, perpetually thankful or perpetually complaining, cheerful or grumpy.
But it was difficult not to give a special place to Rahmath in our hearts. Few people lived with so many adversities in life – very difficult family situation, poverty, and a cruel, unrelenting autoimmune disease (systemic sclerosis) which gave her unbearable pain in all four limbs and elsewhere.
She smiled through it all. She had little to give, but gave plenty – in smiles, expressions of gratitude and always, always, prayers. She would travel 225 kilometers each way in a five hour train ride for every consultation, and we could expect her never-failing call the next morning to reassure us that she got back home by midnight, yes, thank you, she is pain-free now. And then she would name every single member of our team whom she met the previous day and convey her thanks. And she would repeat, she would pray for every one of us, “That is the only thing I can do for you”.
She taught us fortitude. She smiled through suffering that few of us could possibly have lived through. Yet, when the suffering would become overbearing, her eyes would fill, as when she described how her two grandchildren who lived in an orphanage begged to be brought home to their mother during the summer vacation. Eventually, with some slight help from us, she and her daughter-in- law overcame the unbelievable barriers and it was such a joyous occasion for her when the children could be re-united with their mother.
Our guest from USA, Mrs Sunshine Mugrabi wrote about her:
Her smile is a wide as her face, accompanied by a bright twinkle in her bright blue-gray eyes. Her cracked teeth are spaced far apart. When she smiles it looks as if her entire being is infused by some wellspring of private joy. Pain cannot touch it, and in this, she touches everyone around her.”
During the last few days of her life, her suffering became intense. Dr Hyder Ali, Dr Susan Jaya Koshy and the rest of the team at Anwar Palliative Care Unit at Aluva took good care of her. But on the final day of her life, she insisted on coming back to us in Trivandrum. She traveled those 225 kilometers again in an ambulance, breathless, blue in all four limbs, and with a pain score of 10 out of 10. We feel so privileged to feel that we could give her some pain relief and peace during those last few hours.