Thursday, 27 June 2013

Two young men in heaven

We have seen death at close quarters in the last few days.  A week ago - Ben Stephens - a bright  caring young man died at the Bethany Hospital after bravely living with a brain cancer for the last year. 

Then yesterday evening another young man - perhaps 10 years older to Ben - who we will call "Balaji" - died at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

We have known Ben for a decade, and have charted his growth from an adolescent to a young man.  His sweet spirit and love for God shone through many of the twists and turns of his short life.  Before we as a family went to Mussoorie we paid him a visit.

Ben was having problems remembering at that point - but when we met him he was beaming.  He had just been down to CMC Vellore for a consultation - a trip which had taken a lot out of him as he felt quite sick - and the doctors there had basically said that whatever was being done here was all that could be done.  But for Ben, his conversation with us focussed on just how grateful he was to God for who God was.  "I am glad that things are really clear right now" Ben told us.

We only knew Balaji for a week.  He had been admitted at the Govt. Hospital in Thane for 2 weeks but basically did not receive any care there.  They discharged him to die at home.  His brothers - who sell vegetables on the street in down-town Thane - heard about Jeevan Sahara and brought him to us.  He was semi-conscious when he arrived - and had lost motor control below the waist.  Balaji body was wasted - so pathetically thin you wanted to cry just looking at him.

Ben had been in and out of hospitals for the past year.  Surgery on the tumor.  Radiation therapy.  Chemo.  He had gone through it all.  Whenever I saw him his eyes were steady and there was something of a smile to be seen.  Not a silly, cover-up smile, but a real, if sometimes wistful trace of a smile.  The last two times I saw Ben alive were in the ICU at Bethany.   On the second-last time - his eyes were wide open but other than the faintest movement of his eye-brows, he could not respond to us.  The ventilator helped him breath and the beep the medical monitoring systems along with his breaths punctuated the silence.   We talked and prayed with him - telling Ben we loved him.   The day before Ben died I met him again.  The eyes were distant.  There was no reaction at all.  We said that we would see Ben again.  And we mean it still.  Death is not an end for those who die in the arms of Jesus.

I saw Balaji the morning of the day he died.  Yesterday that was.  His brothers were helping him pass stool when we first came to the ward.  After this was over, bro Simon and I spent a short time with him.  We touched his gaunt arms as he looked at us with wide eyes.  He had attended an evening prayer meeting two days earlier, but yesterday morning Balaji could not respond much.  Bro Simon prayed with him as I stroked his hair.

Later in the evening Sheba went back to the centre.  Balaji was gasping for air.  The nurses put on the oxygen.  We talked with his brothers and mother.  Just after supper Sheba got the call that Balaji had passed away.  She went out into the rainy night, over to the JSK Care Centre to examine and write the death certificate.  I put our children to bed.  And prayed for Balaji's family.

On her return, Sheba told me that Balaji's brothers were so grateful that his last days had been with us.  That their brother was loved and cared for with dignity.  "Jesus came and took him away" was what Balaji's brothers told Sheba. "We will never forget the care we got here."

I knew Balaji was very weak, and that the hopes of full recovery were slim.  But I never thought that thiwould be his day of departure.

But looking back on our short time of service to Balaji and his family - I am so very grateful for what Sheba and our nursing team of Agnes, Madhuri and Dipali have been able to do.  We do not know what Balaji's life was like before - but the last week at least was one where he received love, care, dignity, peace and eternal hope.

Ben loved to play the drums - Enoch attended an early band performance and told me that the music was "VERY LOUD."  At his funeral, which we attended on Friday afternoon as a family, the singing was beautiful - with very few dry eyes as we sang 'because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone."   Pastor Cecil Clements remembered how Ben would worship Jesus with total abandon.  It's no accident that much of the description of God's throne by the apostle John is of the adoration of Lord that continues in unceasing glory, wave upon beautiful wave.

We saw Ben's body put into that box and then under a grey monsoonal sky, I took a handfull of mud and dropped it onto the grave, along with so many others who had come to comfort Ben's dear mother and sister.  Ashes to ashes - dust to dust.  I did not see Balaji's body being taken away.  But here is the hope - and its real:  the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and we shall be changed.

Who would have thought that this past week would include the deaths of these two young men.  Two very different lives whom it has been our joy to be part of in very different ways.  But I believe that both have gone ahead of us to be with our Lord. 

I looked over Jordan and what did I see? Coming forth to carry me home?  A bed of angels, coming after me. Coming forth to carry home.

No comments:

Post a Comment