Friday, 3 July 2015

Low counts, but moderate to high spirits

Dad met his oncologist this morning.  He has completed 2 rounds of chemo and is gearing up to start round 3.

But the Dad's blood counts are low.  Very low.  2800 WBCs and only 28 percent neutrophils.   Dr. Ashish Bakshi said that we will wait before starting the next round.  Wait till Dad's blood counts go up.  The chemo is clearly 'working' - and that blessed poison is doing a number on Dad's immunity too.

We faced this last round too.  After the first 2 doses, Dad's bloods were fine.  But then the 3rd and final dose of the cycle - and a 14 day break after which I expected his blood reports to have rebounded, but they stayed low.

Mum and Dad asked Dr. Bakshi if they could do anything.  Could they eat something - or avoid something to get the counts up.  The good doc had no answer for them.

I can see that it's not fun being a patient.  Dad's doing a pretty good job, though, at being gracious about the many small reminders that he has that he is not 'normal' - esp. at meal times.  Dad has strict instructions to only eat 'fresh' food.  And for some reason his doc says that chicken is a no-no.  So Dad has to keep asking about whether the food being served is kosher for him or now.

It's not fun not having as much energy - but Dad plugs on - going down stairs with Yohan for his daily walk - trying to fix the roller-scooter which Yohan has discovered and is enthusiastically learning to use.  

It's not fun being 'in a room' - and feeling that the other family members have to adjust.  Esp. when you have been living in as beautiful a place as Shanti Kunj.  Earlier in the week, we thought that Mum and Dad may be able to stay nearby, but that option did not open up as we had hoped.  So they are here in Asha's room - for the near future at least.

It's not fun having 'planned' to start your next round of chemo tomorrow - and then hearing that it will take some more time.

But then again, life is not all about fun.  We are so glad that Dad is with us these days. 

Someone said that Dad has a 'built-in' tranquiliser.  Not quite.  We do know, however, that he is working to make sense of things, and that the out-going, smile-inducing banter is not automatic, but the result of decisions he makes.

I watch him every morning reading from his harmony of the gospels, his feet up to reduce swelling, and a cup of tea or coffee next to him.  Dad listens to what God is telling him.

And so we come to the end of the 3rd of July in the year of our Lord 2015.  

I just got an SMS from one of our staff stating that a man we had been caring for 'is NOW with the Lord. pray for the family.'

An hour ago we had a small prayer time - Oma, Asha, Enoch and I - on behalf of Agnes and Ezra as they are being married at this time in Delhi.   Sheba took the train up to Delhi yesterday with Stefan and Neeru to be part of this beautiful day.

Death and marriage on the same day.  At the same time.

Our times are fleeting.  Oh that we would be more grateful for each day.  That we would be more grace-filled instead of being mean and curt and quick to think the worst. Oh that we would be able to enjoy and appreciate each other as the seconds melt into minutes, and the hours slip into the past like telephone poles whipping by an breezy open train-window.

Dad and Mum continue to push forward.  There is no magic wand to wave.  There is not little button to press to make everything 'happy-happy.'  Living with them, up-close-and-personal shows that Dad is not always a shining beacon of light.  But that makes is all the more special when he allows God's grace to work in and through him, when his spirits are lifted by the blessed Comforter, Advocate and Guide who comes from the Father and the Son.

Dad is in his room typing - and I am in this room typing.  His old friend Paothang Haokip has just called up so I took the mobile over to Dad.   The big smile is back on his face.  "Hey brother" he starts out with as I close the door and let old friends share their hearts....  

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Last gol guppas, last supper, last...

Your cherished, hoped for event is suddenly upon you... and then it whooshes by, leaving you watching it dissappear as a little dot on the horizon.

We are still in the 'whoosh' of Stefan and Neeru and kids time with us - but have already come to start teeing up our 'lasts'.

This afternoon was the last gol-guppa and sev-puri chaat.  Mind you it was also the first we have enjoyed together as the 12 Eichers, but since we dug in on the day before Stefan and family are headed back to Delhi - and then later this month to the US for 2 years... it gets the moniker 'last'.

What do you say to these mouth-waterers?

Needless to say - they dissappeared rapidly down assorted Eicher gullets.

Not part of our growing up culture - but a glad addition to our tribe.

Having been strictly kept away from street-food, it is only now that we are biting in - and that too with great care to be very sterile... especially since we have two people with low immunities with us - Yohan and Dad!

Give us some advance notice the next time you come - and we will get some ready for you too to dig in with us!

So what do you do on a last afternoon together?

Well, if you are of a school-going age with 'assessments' (fancy name of the old fashioned 'exams') you do a lot of studying - and if you are small enough, Sheba aunty will read you a story...

Meanwhile in the front room - our other scholars are being taken through their paces by Neeru aunty...  How I wish I were back at that age and tackling those assignments (though I did not personally like school much for the first 9 years or so of instruction).

The  old saw about 'all work and no play' is quickly and constantly tested out in our household.  It wasn't long before a number of games broke out.  Othello and "Who am I" are current favourites, and Ashish and Enoch went downstairs for some football, and Daddies had to do some shopping, but a final 5 player game of Risk did take place too!

Earlier in the afternoon some kneading happened in the kitchen.  Not for the standard chappatis, but for some pizza!  And by early evening it had risen nicely and was ready to be put in the pans!

We have a jolly little past-time when it comes to pizzas - kids get to 'decorate' their pies.

So one by one (and after being examined for hand-washing too!) we had 6 of our 10 pizzas 'made' by the young generation.

And then into the oven they went, most 2-by-2 like the animals into Noah's ark.  The last two being biggest got single status!

The picture on the left is unusual - because it was taken by Dad - possibly the first time I have seen him take a shot in years - and he actually went outside the kitchen window to get the angle he wanted!

"Wer will fleißige Handwerker sehn?" goes the old German children's song! (go to google translate if you don't know Deutsch!).

Our expert cooks made sure that the pizzas were ready to take out...

Did we really make that many?

Who is going to eat them all?

Are they done yet?

A watched pizza seems to take longer to bake...

But yes, the first ones were ready and placed on the top of the oven to keep them warm, while the second batch went in, and then when these were in turn brought out...

we went to the table where 6 hungry cousins had gathered with empty plates and rumbly tummies (though not from the gol-guppas that they had scoffed just 4 hours previously)

And so we move to the next stage in our lives.  Stefan and Neeru in Indianapolis - becoming part of what looks like a wonderful community there - while Stefan does an MFA in painting from the IUPUI.   We 'looked' at the house that they will be staying at on google street view - and Enoch already wants to go and visit them there.

If wishes were horses...

But who knows?  Perhaps it will not be 2 years before we meet up again.

Perhaps one of these days the 5 of us will be boarding a jet plane...

In the meantime we still have the present.  The next few hours of togetherness.  The ache of wanting to talk and yet not being able to get the words out.  The blessed opportunities of being in the same place at the same time, breathing the same air and building our togetherness by the many small struts and lashings-together that are the common-place things that we can't do when far apart.

Until we actually live on the same street - or at least in the same city (unlikely at this point) - we will have to make do with these occassional meetings - blessed intentional gathering together to do both the special and the normal.

We are so very grateful for Stefan and Neeru coming and spending these crucial days with us.  As they do their final rounds of preparation before they fly to the US in the last week of July, we send them on their journey with a loud 'God-speed!'

And, strangely enough, we are not sending them off alone!  We booked Sheba on the same Rajdhani to Delhi as our dear Agnes is getting married on the 3rd of July! 

Picture please!  All together... all smile...  never possible, but each time a heroic try!  Here is our latest version:

Monday, 29 June 2015

When numbers get serious

A long, long time ago an American songster Paul Simon warbled:

When numbers get serious
They leave a mark on your door 
(from the album Hearts and Bones).

Yohan has some pretty serious numbers.  When we first met him his immunity was very low.  So low that he was sick with lots of other sicknesses.  And very thin.   The magic (and very serious number) was his CD4 count - the summary of his immunity.  It was only 163.  Most people have somewhere between 800 - 1200 or so CD4 cells per cubic mm.  That's what a healthy immune system will look like.  163 is poverty.

Last week I took Yohan for his 6 month follow up.  He has been taking his meds every single day.  Every single time.  On the dot.

As the lab tech took took out that large syringe of blood I could see Yohan's eyes tearing up - but he did not cry like the previous time when we went for the Hep B viral count.   Brave young man.

Over the weekend we got the report.  I could hardly believe it.  Just 6 months later, and Yohan's CD4 count has rocketed up to 624.  Serious numbers.  Joyous numbers.  Numbers nursed up by prayer and love.

There are lots of other numbers that we still have to work through with Yohan.

We have yet to find out whether the meds are working against the Hep B Virus.  We hope so.  We pray so. 

More immediately we have an unpleasant number to consider.  And that is "3."   In the first few months Yohan did not have any seizures.  We wondered if he even really had them - and whether he should continue taking the anti-epileptic meds he had arrived with.   Well, we found out the hard and real way that he did need the tablets.   First he had one fit.  Then a few weeks later, another.  All while on meds.

So we added another med - and sadly this weekend he had his 3rd fit.  It was not a very severe one - but it was a fit.   While on 2 anti-epileptic meds.   And so we go back to the numbers.  Our friends from CMC Vellore have suggested another med to be added - and a plan to taper down the one that he has been on for long. 

The hitch?  Another 3.  I went to three medical stores this evening - and all told me that the drug in question is not available in the dosage prescribed to ramp up this med.  The docs from vellore want us to segue from 150 mg to 200 mg, then up to 250 and finally to stablise him on 300 mg.   The problem is that only 250 mg tabs are available - with 500 mg being the next step up.

So we will have to use a phone number to call up our dear friends down and see what they advise.

In the meantime, we end with some happy numbers.

Both Yohan and Dad have been gaining weight.   Yohan has picked up more than 3 kgs in this half year.   After Dad lost a lot of weight over the past year, he is gradually getting some back.  Currently he is up to 71 kgs after dropping down to 67 or so post operation.

We earnestly thank the Lord for these numbers - both those figures that point us in a direction that we are hoping and praying to move in - and those 'ugly' numbers that serve as challenges and conscience-prickers (and then conscience-kickers).

And so gentle reader, as the white glow of the screen is the only light on in the darkened room - I shall soon be joining Enoch, Yohan, Asha and Sheba in the refreshing (and still very mysterious) pleasure of counting sheep (or zzzzzzzzzzzs).

Bon nuit!  I know I can count on your friendship dear reader!  Thank you for coming along on this journey with us.  Your prayers for Yohan - and for Dad - continue to be cherished.

An Eicher Dozen - celebrating Ashish's 9th!

Eight years ago, we celebrated the first birthday of Asha and Enoch’s first male cousin – our wonderful Ashish Christopher Ion Eicher!
This June 25th we celebrated Ashish’s 9th Birthday anniversary!  And when we say we, it was not just Stefan and Neeru, Ashish, Asha, Enoch and Sheba and myself.
This time we had a whole dozen Eichers!  Oma and Opa (here for Dad’s post-op recovery and chemotherapy), Stefan and Neeru with their lovely three of Ashish, Anjali and Anita – and the Thane Eichers are now 5 too – with Yohan joining Asha and Enoch this year!
What a joy to have Ashish with us.

And what a marvellous young man he is growing into.   Fleet of foot and always adept with bat and ball - or foot and ball - as well as a master of the lego game universe - it is a delight to have Ashish with us and a joy to celebrate 9 sun-spins of grace in his life!

When we look back to the small fellow he was then - and see him now - just at the cusp of adolesence - we are amazed at God's goodness and faithfulness to us all.

Who would have thought 2 sisters would be added to his family?  It is lovely to see how gentle Ashish is with them (most of the time at least).  And with Enoch and Ashish growing up together, we can see two boys with similar interests blossoming as cousin-friends (something that Stefan, Premi and I did not have in our growing up years).  Enoch supervised Oma's purchase of a Chelsea FC football as a gift for Ashish and the two are pretty inseperable - much to our delight of course.

Birthday's demand parties of course!

And being privileged to have hosted Ashish's very first B-day bash - it was a treat to be able to have a small celebration for his 9th!

We are no longer in the days when Ashish can be easily carried by Asha like back in that day!

The cake back then was in the shape of his interest as a one-year-old: Ashish loved to 'join in' with his Daddy when Stefan played guitar - and was actually given a small guitar a bit later which finally fell to bits with Ashish's loving playing of it!

When you have a cake, you have to sing the 'B-day song' too!  We sung it way back in 2007....

And we sung it again in 2015 - with more voices and Opa's specially loooooong rendering of "we're sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad God made you"

Back in the day, we were not able to really play any 'games' together.  That has of course all changed - and with 6 cousins, there were enough to make 2 teams!

Here Yohan is trying to get his blind-folded team-mate Asha to identify a potato by smell!   We topped off the games by having a treasure hunt around the house with clues written to the levels appropriate for the kids... and then we were treated to a royal feast put on by the mothers!

This birthday may be the last one that the cousins will be celebrating together for the near future - since Stefan and family are shifting to Indianapolis at the end of July where he will be pursuing a 2 year Masters of Fine Arts programme in painting!

So these days that Stefan and family are spending with us are very precious - and much appreciated.  
Amidst the hustle and bustle of our lives, it is wonderful to have the family with us. 

The house is never silent these days of course - and there is always something going on in some corner of the home - and usually in most places all at once!

It may be a book being read out to the 'little ones' or a game being played - or a book being read while a painting is being carefully done by our youngest artist!

This young maestro has at times brought in a new innovation to painting.  Why be content with using a paint brush to bring life to the picture - why not us one's hair for the sake of art?

There are also various games going on computers and on the floor as Enoch's beloved caps are put to good use for football matches between the male cousins.

We even managed to squeeze in an historic game of Risk, where the Eicher bros and their sons took to conquering the world.  The game was halted with Yohan in the lead - due to a cease-fire called because of supper for the 12 of us.  I wish more wars would end because of dinner-time!

Anita participated as chief dice-thrower for her Daddy, and Anjali arranged the soldiers and horses and cannons with military precision.  A good parade ground drilling for those not on active duty in one of the boys' armies...

Being together for the first time as the 12 of us means that a lot of photos are being taken!

There are clearly some who enjoy having their photo taken more than others!  The oldest two are currently in a no-to-photos stage.  While our newest family member is all for photos - and always ready to put on a special 100 watt smile and a pose!

We have 4 more precious days with our Delhi Eichers - who are soon to be the 'Indianapolis Eichers.'   How best to use these days, these hours, these minutes that are slipping by so fast?  Why does it always seem that the things we look forward too, suddenly crop up and rush by in a blaze of speed, leaving us with only memories to cling on to?

C.S. Lewis talked about this in a positive way in Out of the Silent Planet:  “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmán, as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.” 

So we have these days to cherish - days that are being lived out in the here-and-now - and we have the future to remember today.

In the mean time - it's time to dive into all that God has for us as families.

Including the amazing sight of our 77 year-old Oma jumping into the pool with her now 9-year-old grandson Ashish!

p.s.  all the good pictures in this post were taken by Stefan!  Thanks for sharing them!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Prayers of illiterate saints

...maculate cities are spared
through the prayers of illiterate saints...

At the very end of WH Auden's poem "In Transit" a phrase appears.

Maculate - i.e. dirty - cities are spared, are saved, are kept from destruction... by the prayers of illiterate saints, by the supplications of the dusty and unknown, those whose names do not grace cathedrals and the lips of the high and mighty - other than perhaps in response to a command.

We have the privilege and the challenge of knowing some of these, up close and personal.

Each Tuesday evening we gather for a small Bible study and prayer time in the home of sister Shanti.
The format is simple.  We are looking at what Jesus said about Himself - as recorded by his beloved disciple John.  We normally meditate on a short passage - with me sharing some thoughts on it, and then Sheba elaborating it a bit more, sometimes with a parable that fits it, other times with some visual pictures.  We then spend time memorising the key portion that we were looking at, and then have a time of prayer together.  We finish off with a simple meal.  The Eichers normally bring the beans or dal - and Sis. Shanti cooks plenty of rice.

It's a small room that we meet in - and so even though our numbers are small, it is usually full.

Last Tuesday, one of the ladies shared that her house had been leaking with the onset of the monsoon. Let's call her 'Nalini.'  Nalini is a widow and is HIV positive.  Her adolescent son has dropped out of school and has been working at a roadside 'Chinese' food stall.  He has some mental short-comings.  Her daughter has been trying to go to school, but seems to be in and out.  Nalini loves the Lord, in a simple way, but overall her actions seem quite childish, bordering on what a mental illness.  It seems her 15 year old daughter is the one who really is leading the household.

Nalini told us that she had been praying about the leaking roof which was causing them misery in heavy monsoon rains.  The week before she had mentioned it in our little meeting and we had all prayed about it.  And then the good news: in the intervening time - someone had decided to put a big plastic sheet over the whole roof - including their section - and now no more water dripping in!  Small mercies.

Shanti told us that she has a neighbour who is clearly mentally ill.   They have to share a common water source - and this has led to friction, as the lady next door keeps shouting that she wants the pipe over on her side early in the morning.  The lady inevitably goes down to the watchman and creates a racket by shouting about the water.  This takes place almost daily and is the cause of discomfort for all the folks living in the building.

Sis. Shanti has been giving accommodation to an orphan boy for the last 2 weeks.  He is on holiday from his hostel in another city, and his grandmother had taken him out of school and had him collecting garbage and drinking her home-brewed alcohol that she sells locally - so we just could not have him go to his 'home' during this holiday time.

This boy saw what was happening about the lady next door.  So he prayed along with Shanti.  Shanti said that she had of course prayed about her neighbour before, but not in the intense way this boy did.

What happened?  Well both the water seems to be coming at a far greater level than it did before - and the neighbour lady seems more quiet and has not been shouting so much.  Small evidences of prayerful requests.

Our Father cares for His children.  Over and over.  Let us pray.

Maculate cities (Thane included) are being spared.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A monsoon ramble in Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Sheba had an excellent idea today - she sent Enoch and myself up the hill for a hike in the rain.  A bit of father-son time and a step out into the total beauty of creation on a rainy day.

While the rest of Mumbai has been inundated with rain, with trains grinding to a halt and storm sewers backing up in the high tide, we took our beloved 'Papaya' to the Thane entrance of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (just beyond the Tikujiniwadi resort) and having pain our dues, we stepped into beauty.

Enoch and I were well stocked with goodies - and with our umbrellas in hand we started walking up the hill.

Early on we came up to forest department watch tower.  Though wet, we had to climb up for the cloud-scudded view of Thane.  We had to smile when we remembered the last time we had climbed it - for Enoch's birthday in February along with a whole clan of Vargheses!  What fun with the little ones we had.  Today, however, it was only the two of us in the light rain and greenery on all sides.

The path - usually a dry trail through the forest was wreathed in mist...

Soon we were stopping to wonder at the glory of creation - with exquisite small white flowers - raindrop-soaked at our feet.

The monsoons have been with us for 2 weeks now.  And in the last 3 days we have been lashed with rain.  This afternoon Enoch and I were treated with a feast of new colour.  Most of it that beautiful light green of new growth.

Some of the new leaves, however, were an amazing red too...

Being a wildlife sanctuary, we always have a small hope to see some wild beasts.  There is the odd leopard who has taken local dogs in the past - but we have not heard about any big cats being seen for many a moon.

The wildlife we saw was hardly dangerous.

But we were startled to see first a tiny crab - and then a number of lovely specimens... right on top of the ridge!

Take a look at this beauty!

As we walked up the hill we entered the clouds.  The rain came and went, the delicious coolness of the monsoon mixed with the blessed stillness of the place... you would never believe that 500 meters away were high-rise appartment buildings.

One of the big surprises was the tree where we normally have our picnics.  It is on the top of the ridge - a lovely tamarind tree which give a nice shade on a hot summer day when you have worked up a sweat to get to the top.

Today, as we were having our sandwiches, we looked up into the branches and were delighted to see something quite out of the blue - there were beautiful orchids in bloom!

Knowing how much Mum and Dad love orchids, the thought of a climb up the tree to get a few for our home did cross the mind... But we are talking about a National Park here.  While others come in and take things out - (we came across some young men who were foraging what looked like a kind of lily - they told us that it made good subji) - after a short discussion, Enoch and I decided to leave the orchids up where they belonged.

Enoch and I have discovered a series of books that are perfect to read on a small outing like this - and also in other settings like lying in a bed too...  The 'Redwall' series of stories by Brian Jacques - a set of tales of valiant small animals and their adventures.

Sure enough, we had a copy of one of them 'Triss' along with us - and so stopped at various points to have a snack and read one of the chapters.

Here we are at the point which normally is the end of our walk - and a good place to make a cup of tea.  No chance of that today, though, with everything so sopping wet.  So we had to make do with some mountain dew - in honour of the conditions of course!

We eventually walked along the ridge to a place which we had never been to before - probably the highest point locally.  We cannot be totally sure it was the highest, given the mist around us - but it was a dramatic open space with large stones that made good seats - an a ripping wind that came up from the Yeoor valley on the other side.

The rain decided it was time to come down a bit heavier, but we were well set - sitting on respective rocks next to each other under our umbrellas, reading the story and munching on apples (very much like the characters in the books - Jacques enjoys describing the food the eat).

On our way down, it cleared up a bit, given us a dramatic view of the great sprawling city of Thane.   It is amazing how much the building boom continues.  Up and up come the sky-scrapers...

One day, my son, all of this will be yours...

Many eons ago, a young man was taken up to a high place and shown the glories of the world.  He was given a seductive challenge - "you can have all of this, if you worship me" said the tempter.  "Worship God alone" came the steadfast and Father-loving reply.

Some of the same temptation touches our hearts today.  So much is out there up for grabs.  Being in the sheer beauty of the wilderness can help to reset our priorities.   What choices we make today, affects so much of our tomorrows.

Frost summed the outcomes of our choices elegantly at the end of his famous poem:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Going up to the ridge in the rain with my son today was a precious gift Sheba gave me.

My minds eye still has images like this in them:

What a beautiful world!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Saying goodbye

It has been a strange and beautiful day.

The rains were torrential outside for most of last night and half of the day - with most of Mumbai flooded it seems.  A call from Delhi started with the concerned question about 'are we safe.'  Well, we certainly are.  A few branches have fallen from trees, but otherwise Thane continues to be wet and firmly 'on dry land' if we can say so.

I dropped off Yohan at his 'school' this morning at 8 and then took Mum and Dad over to Bethany for his latest dose of chemotherapy.

I was soon back at work and had the somewhat hilarious privilege of translating for a local pastor who had me repeating 'Hallelujah' after him repeatedly in an animated way.  For one short time he even lapsed into 'tongues' which I wasn't able to translate.  Peter has been reaching out to local pastors and brought this gentleman to share with our staff for the morning devotions.  Respect for a man who wears his passion on his sleeves.  We are glad that he could see some to the challenges we are working with - and for his words of encouragement to us all.

Mid morning was sobering.  I went to check out on Dad - who had his chemo being done in a bed in the casuality department as every bed in the 125 bedded Bethany Hospital was full - and there was a waiting-list for admissions.   As I drove our 'Papaya' out of JSK in the pouring rain, I saw that we had an ambulance on the campus.   A new patient being brought for admission I thought.   Looking closer, I saw the word 'hearse' on it.  Surely there is some mistake.  But there wasn't.

When I got back, I found out that we had lost one of the three people we have admitted at our JSK centre.  A young man we will call Tapan.  No, he is not a man - he was a boy.  A 17 year old who was trapped in the body of a 13 year old.  He had suffered a stroke a year ago, before JSK met him and had lost his parents to HIV previous to that.  He died of a lack of hope.  Our staff tried to help him, but his body just shut down - since he had basically stopped eating for the past 3 weeks.  You feel so helpless, so horribly helpless in times like this.  Despite our nurses trying so hard, Tapan slipped away from us this morning.

In this context, having Enoch and Asha come home early from school (due to the flooding in parts of Mumbai) seems such a completely different world away - and yet we and Tapan have shared the same space - have talked with each other.  He was alive during the farewell time we had for Agnes last night.  He died early this morning.  How to deal with things like this.

And how to say goodbye to people like Agnes who spent the better part of 5 years serving with us at Jeevan Sahara Kendra?  Well, there is really only one way forward ... to celebrate it as best as we can.   So last night we had the JSK staff and families and folks from our church together for a time of thanksgiving.  And tonight Agnes and Annie came over for a 'last meal' (Annie is staying on of course).

It was a beautiful time.

Sheba cooked up a storm - an amazing chicken curry with pulao rice and dahi-wadas.  Amazing grace for the 9 of us around the table.  Dad's chemo had gone well.  We were so grateful to all be together as Agnes leaves early tomorrow for the train journey back to her village in Andhra Pradesh - and then on to Delhi where she is getting married to Ezra Kannayyan on the 3rd of July.

We shared some laughs too.

And prayers.

But one of the best things about this dinner was just how normal it was.  No big speeches.  No long silences.  Just the normal chatter around the table - like it has been on the many times when we have had Agnes over.

Will will be missing her much at Jeevan Sahara Kendra - and our kids - all three of them will miss their 'Atha' too.   But saying good-bye is very, very much part of the bittersweetness of our lives.

So it was good that after Oma's delicious apple pie (which as the American's say was 'made from scratch' o have a normal family devotion time (with Annie and Agnes with us).  Songs of worship got us going - a dip into Spurgeon's evening thoughts took us to Song of Solomon 5 v. 1-2, and we ended with prayer.

Fare well Agnes.  We have a huge gap in our work with your departure - but are trusting that the Lord Jesus will provide a replacement - no make that 3 replacements for you!

Fare well Agnes.  We trust that your steps of love and devotion in marriage will be a beautiful home - a place where others will be greatly blessed.

Fare well Tapan.  We wish you were still with us - and hope to meet you in paradise.  We pray that we will be able to help other HIV positive adolescents like you (but who are still alive) in special ways.

Fare well Dad.  We know you are still very well with us - but we pray that the chemo medications will do maximum damage to any cancerous cells in you, while doing minimal 'nukshaan' to yourself.

Fare well gentle readers.  A few words before I sleep.  Thank you for coming along with us on this journey.  When will the next post be?  We don't know so many things, but one thing we do know is that our Lord knows the way through the wilderness.  Thank you for reading and praying - for thinking and shaping our lives.