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.
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.
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.