Friday, 10 August 2012

A life well lived

Late last week a saint slipped away.   After 83 years of life here - Uncle SK Alfred was called home.

Uncle Alfred spent the last few weeks in the hospital which he loved so much - not because he was proud of his son's enterprise in seeing the ultra-modern Bethany Hospital rise up.  Uncle Alfred loved that hospital because he loved the people.

Every morning - and I mean every morning - rain or shine - Uncle Alfred would make his way to the hospital.  For years it was 7.30 sharp when he entered and had a time of prayer with some of the staff there. Then he would start his rounds.  Going into every single room.  Talking, praying, encouraging the patients, their care-givers and the staff.

The last few years increasingly saw Uncle Alfred admitted as a patient himself.  4 years ago his heart stopped beating... then started again when he was admitted at the then Lok Hospital.   A series of health set-backs found Uncle Alfred confined to a wheel chair.  Well, confined is not the word.  He was brought in the wheel chair every morning to Bethany Hospital.  Sometimes the people he ministered to in the beds were less sick than he was.  There he was, being wheeled into different rooms - talking and praying with whoever he met.

In the last few months Uncle Alfred suffered a series of strokes and was increasingly hard to understand.  With great effort he would bring out a few words.  Most people could not catch what he was actually saying - but they saw something very clearly.  They saw his love.  They were touched by his prayers.

We loved Uncle Alfred dearly.  And he loved us.  When we first moved to Thane we were almost neighbours and our little ones (at that time) were always welcome in Uncle and Aunties home.  We would talk about his favorite scripture portions, he would ask about what progress the JSK work had taken.  Aunty would sit along with us and with her sharp insight underline something that Uncle said.  We would always end in prayer.

At Jeevan Sahara we were blessed with a memorable series of Friday morning visits where Uncle would share from scripture during the staff devotions.  He went through the full set of 'I ams' that the Lord Jesus told us:  I am the bread of life,  I am the way, I am the resurrection and the life... each one a jewel brought forward with love by a man who not only loved the scripture - he lived it - he ate it and breathed it.

Sadly those visits to our morning prayers at JSK were cut short by a serious bout of illness.

Uncle Alfred's death was entirely expected.  It was a miracle that he had lived so long.

This is what his son - Dr. Stephen Alfred - wrote about his father:

Two things stood out till he died, one his urgency to communicate the gospel and turn every opportunity to tell about his Glorious Lord, and the second was his commitment towards the local church, both very important things that kept him in good stead.

He was proud to have me as a son, but I am more proud to have him as my father, and I often pray if I could live to be even half of what he was I would be satisfied. I have learned so much from him. I remember him having refused promotion twice in the company he worked, just to have more time for the church. He was certainly no fool to give what he could not keep to gain what he could not lose.

It was moving to be at the funeral of this saint.  I found myself in tears at the prayer meeting held at Dr. Stephen's home - but those were not tears of despair - they were tears that acknowledged the reality of something very, very good.  A man who allowed himself to be used by God and now had died - old and full of years - and with no regrets.  A life well lived.

The internment at the Christian Cemetery in Mulund was a tribute to the goodness of God.  So many from so many different walks of life.  There was such a variety of people who are worshipping in different parts of the body of Christ, but whose lives had been touched in some manner by uncle Alfred.

The head of a major local denomination shared how he had been given a solid grounding in God's word while he was a student in Uncle Alfred's Sunday School class.  This man finished his tribute by saying that he was now a pastor of a church.  A young church elder told about how Uncle and Auntie Alfred had taken him into their home when he was rejected by his birth family.  A senior leader narrated about having come fresh to Bombay from his native village in Kerala, Uncle Alfred had encouraged him.  Later, when he was working in the head-office of the same company Uncle Alfred also worked with - he heard others talk about SK Alfred as 'woh bahut seedah admi hai' (he is a very upright man).  And the stories went on.

Dr. Stephen Alfred had this to say about his father:

He died not a rich man, but a man who lacked nothing.  He gave what he had for the Lord's work and the Lord did not hold back anything.

At the end of the funeral, Sam Thomas (one of Uncle Alfred's son-in-laws), stood in the middle of the crowd that surrounded the gash of earth into which the coffin was lowered.  He took a clod of earth and said the traditional words of 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' while reminding us that we are not in gloom and hopelessness about Uncle Alfred - but rather we await the resurrection eagerly.

I took a handfull of earth and with threw it into the pit - my small salvo of soil adding to the thin layer that was already covering the flowers on the coffin.  In a few minutes the shovels would be out and the mortal remains of Uncle Alfred were covered with the mud - the same stuff that at the dawn of time was fashioned into man and had life breathed into it by God himself.

Any death is a sorrow.  As we left the cemetery, we pass crosses almost drowned in lush monsoonal grass.  We have left the orphaned body of Uncle Alfred in the right place.  Interned underground.  To return to dust and to await the mysterious call to rise again.  We left him with real hope in our hearts.

Our sorrows will be turned to joy one day.  We are already celebrating through the tears.

No comments:

Post a Comment