Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Home and The Heart, full text

Those interested in reading or sharing this series can download it as a single PDF document.

I am grateful for the many letters and notes and messages that you have sent after reading this series.  Thank you.

Those who wish to read it online, here is the table of contents in order:

  1. The Last Supper
  2. The House of Usher
  3. The Five Words
  4. The Compliment
  5. The Pain of Love
  6. The Way Home
  7. The Weightless Weight
  8. A Few Thousand Words
  9. Post Tenebras, Lux
  10. Postscript


Monday, March 28, 2022

The Home and The Heart, Postscript

I trust I have not wasted breath:
I think we are not wholly brain,
Magnetic mockeries; not in vain,
Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;

Not only cunning casts in clay:
Let Science prove we are, and then
What matters Science unto men,
At least to me? I would not stay.

Let him, the wiser man who springs
Hereafter, up from childhood shape
His action like the greater ape,
But I was born to other things.

I had not intended to write this series.  But over time, I realized that the pain of that period still lingered in me.  I felt responsible for all that had happened.  To see a loved one go through so much pain and suffering is not easy, especially if that pain and suffering is a result of decisions that were made.  She trusted me to make those decisions, and I made them with the utmost care.  I read every medical journal that talked about valve thrombosis, the various approaches to treating it, the risks of thrombolysis versus re-do valve surgery, the mechanics of heart bypass, the mechanism and aftermath of embolic strokes, and so on.  I asked innumerable questions to her doctors.  I got second opinions.  I read of thrombolytic agents and which ones to use and what dosage was to be applied.

But in the end, our hand was forced by her deteriorating condition and by the many doctors who told us there was no other way but to operate on her.

Before giving our consent to heart surgery, I had asked her a question.  I had asked her if I was in a similar situation, if my heart had failed, and all the doctors were telling us that surgery was my only option, would she have tried to persuade an unwilling me to go through with it?  To my continued distress to this day, she had said that she, gentle and loving as she is, would have not.

Perhaps she did not realize the gravity of her situation.  But the fact remains that I, advised by the doctors, made her agree to the re-do surgery.

We, or rather I, made the decision to go in.  I was the one who signed the consent form, acknowledging that I understood the risks.  I live with that decision, and its aftermath.

Though it is not part of the standard protocol, I wish I had asked the hospital to do a brain scan on her during the 40 hours that she was unconscious after her heart surgery.  I wish I knew that there was major risk of a vascular accident during or after her surgery and I wish we had caught the stroke in time.  In the aftermath, I asked the attending surgeons and doctors to revise their protocol to include this check, but I do not know if anything will come of my recommendation.

But I was not, and am not, a medical professional.  I trusted the hospital and the doctors and the medical journals.  But my wife - she only trusted me.  I cherish this trust, but I also have to live with the responsibility of this trust.

If I was an illiterate man who had little idea of pressure gradients in the heart, I would have taken the relatively easier path of just accepting the doctors' decisions.  I would not have made them "my" decisions.  I would have obeyed the experts and accepted every procedure, every complication, fatalistically.  But I was born to know, and to question, and so I also have to live with the limits of my knowledge and with the limited knowledge of the experts.  They, and I, tried to do their best, but it was not good enough.

The difference is: the doctors went home and attended to other patients the next day.  My wife's post-surgical complications would be a statistic in their long career.  But for my wife, and for me, our life was transformed in those few days.  We, as all patients, have to live the rest of our lives with the consequences, while for the doctors it is, hopefully, a learning.

It was not their fault.  I believe they tried their very best.  I hold no bitterness toward them.

This pain in me is mine own.  It is irrational, but I do not deny it.

It is not unlike the pain of a mother who kissed and goaded her unwilling child into the school bus, and the child later bled to his death in a bus accident.  She was hardly "responsible".  She did everything out of immense love and with the very best of intentions.  But if you are at all human, you will understand her guilt.

To heal the pain of that decision of mine, and the immense suffering for her that followed, this series is an attempt at what I can only term as Penance.  It is my cross to bear, and through my writing, I hope to, perhaps, forgive myself.

The second reason is to give anybody who reads this series a message of hope and love.  To give the reader a sense of home and of being away from it, and what it means to one's heart.  To communicate the power of love.  To tell the reader that it is possible to transcend tragedy and darkness.  It may not always be possible, and every story is different, but our story ends as a beginning.  We were fortunate, and blessed, to have come through, and I wanted to share this tale of overcoming.

Lastly, this series is a tribute to my wife, and to the love in her heart.  She is a marvelous woman: simple, loving and truthful.  She has not seen much of the world, and perhaps because of that, she is innocent in a way that is rare and remarkable.

She will perhaps never want to, or be able to, write her story in the way I have done.  She may never read it.  It will be too traumatic for her to recall those times in this detail.  But her story needed to be told, I feel.  She is of this earth, an unknown woman, but this story of her struggle needed to be better known.  It is my homage to her resilience, her patience, and to her fortitude.

I thought I knew much.  But she has taught me much more.

...

Through this, I remain grateful to our two friends, and our siblings, especially my younger brother, who all shall remain unnamed, and who gave us their time, their energy and their affection.  To her parents, and to mine, who worried for us and sent her their prayers.  And to our well-wishers, who remained concerned for our well-being.

The Home and The Heart, part IX

Chapter IX

Post Tenebras, Lux

I am reborn.  I have come through. 

When I was born the first time, I was named after the full moon.  And today, as then, I am bathed in light.

From the bottomless labyrinth of the deepest despair, I have risen.  I have crept and I have crawled and I have climbed, and climbed till I could breathe no more, and I see the sun now.

There was that time, and a dreadful time it was, when I did not even dream.  I was in the darkest valley one could scarce imagine, and I was all alone.  I did not know how I had fallen, and how I would rise again.  They had broken my back and my ribs, and they had put daggers into me.  I had bled in cascades to within a whisper of death.

I was parched and not a drop of water did I find.  My tongue and my lips had become heavy with salt.  I could hear nothing but strange sounds of creatures I had never seen or known of.  In that dreamless dark night, I floated endlessly.  I tried to hold on to something, anything, that could bear my mass, but there was nothing.  I felt weightless, emotionless, thoughtless.  That world was empty, and endless, and without relief.

But the faint embers of my life had not totally extinguished.  They pulsed with the little drops of blood that were left in my broken frame.  My heart was beating, ever so feebly, with little to flow in my veins.  With only one hand, my left, I tried to pour the elixir of hope on those embers.  But there was no hope left in me.

As night flowed into endless night, I saw, or did I dream? a distant light.  A faint light it was, but it was there.  That soothing light made the infinite darkness seem less frightful.

That light was not unfamiliar, but I did not recognize it fully then.

Was this the light that I had seen eons ago?  Its memory seemed buried in a far corner of my being.  Was this the light around which I had circled one day? It was that, wasn’t it?

I was tired beyond my limits.  I wanted to just sleep forever, but that light!  That light danced and that light came closer and caressed my shattered limbs.  As I slipped into slumber, toward eternal sleep, that light gently shook me again into wakefulness.

That light became my hope.  If there was this light, this darkness surely was not endless, it had its end.  It was not infinite, as it had seemed.

As I, with effortless effort, rose from my tired slumber, the light entered me and lit me from within.  I held it, or did it hold me I wonder.  I would not let it go now.  I treasured it, nourished it, and made it my most precious friend.

My fears and pains were there still, but that radiance made them bearable.  I breathed in the air around me.  With that light in me, the air was no longer a stranger.  I could not speak, nor was there another soul to hear my silence.  But that light within my being told me that I was not alone.

It told me that I had many dreams to dream, that I had many mountains yet to see, that many swans and seagulls were waiting for me in their oceans.  That I was again going to kiss that red sparrow in my orchid that used to prance near my feet. That what was broken could be made whole again.  

But I had to follow the light and not get lost again.

As I let that light be my guide, it gave me strength and hope.  I thought my journey toward the sun was going to be eternal, but the light whispered to me that it wasn’t.  That only if I did not give up, only if I kept walking through my despair, I would find that my despair was not my master.  That I would overcome it.

And through many strange mazes and tunnels and doorways did I pass.  And I kept on.  Resolute, hopeful, fearful, I kept on.

As I emerged into the light of the sun and fulfilled my destiny, I realized, with bliss, what that inner light was.  The light of the sun was much grander, and astonishing to behold, but my own light inside of me was its part.

The light of the sun and the light within me had become one.  They merged, and showed me that I was that light.

That light was love. 

Because I had found and cherished love in my heart, I was able to see love beyond me.  And that love, within and without, was me.  

I had become love.  I was love.  I am love.  

My glow, which isn't only mine anymore, is the absolute utter and pure benediction of life.

My journey from darkness to light doesn't end here, as my journey in light has just begun.  The mountains and the oceans await me.  As it once was, so it shall be again, that I shall be true to my name, and I shall take my ancient place with the stars.

I stretch my arms and my love expands to all that is visible and invisible.  I was adrift, and now I am home.  And my home and my heart are one.

I bless all those who are lost, and those who are on their journey.  May all those who drift into darkness find their light again.  May their hearts be home.

ॐ असतोमा सद्गमय । Lead us from the unreal to the real
तमसोमा ज्योतिर्गमय । Lead us from darkness to light
मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय ।। Lead us from death to deathlessness
ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ।।  May there be peace in all

The End

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Home and The Heart, part VIII

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Chapter 8

A Few Thousand Words


Before the Calamity


On the brink


In Darkness


The First Sleep at Home

After the Haircut

And, A few Months Later

(to be concluded)


The Home and The Heart, part VII

I know that this was Life,—the track
Whereon with equal feet we fared;
And then, as now, the day prepared
The daily burden for the back.

But this it was that made me move
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love:

Chapter 7

The Weightless Weight

She was home.  She was extraordinarily weak.  She had lost fifteen pounds during that banishment away from home.  Her body was tattooed with innumerable needle pricks and internal bleeds.  Her hair were in shambles.  But she was at peace.

As she entered her home, she breathed in the long-desired, long-awaited air of her past, and absorbed the love and belonging that was all hers.  Her soul was soothed, and her restlessness went away as she took step after step inside her house.  She looked around with tired eyes, and the sight of every little familiar thing gave her nourishment.  That chair!  That towel!  That mirror!  She became languorous, and lay down in her bed and went to sleep.  I could not have enough of looking at her sleeping peacefully in her own room, the room that was built of affection and understanding.  I had waited for this day for so long.  Her own pillow, her blanket that smelled of love and jasmine, offered her the embrace of her own world.

I felt as if we had just married, and this was my bride coming to her conjugal home.

In the coming weeks and months, I knew that we both had to climb a steep mountain, whose peak we could not yet see from here below.  Without saying anything, we were joined in our resolve.  We were together now, and our love would see us through to the other side.  Together, we would climb.  Holding hands, walking shoulder to shoulder, we would climb.  We would get tired, and we would catch our breath, rest for an afternoon, and with renewed resolve, we would climb.

It was an immense vindication of our decision to come back home "against medical advice" that she healed as if miraculously.  She started walking within a few days.  She never needed a cane, what to speak of needing a wheelchair.  Her right arm, though very weak, was moving again.  Though I had brought a supply of thick liquids for her, she never had a need for those.  She started having normal liquids.  In tiny gulps, ever so slowly, but she tasted water and milk and tea and coffee again.  She would cough, and learn to swallow properly, and try again.  And she started chewing again.  It was utterly remarkable.  And immensely fulfilling for both of us.

I bathed her, and fed her, and held her as she tried to walk, and made her again see the trees, the rivers, the birds, the sun, the moon and the stars.  Nature took over, and she slowly regained her weight and her strength.  I tried to engage some therapists, but it was hard to find a good one.  And by necessity and by desire, I ended up as her therapist.  I made her do little exercises every day, and fed her milk shakes, smoothies, eggs, porridge, and bowls of soup.

She started smiling again, and every little victory over her condition gladdened her heart.  Her headaches were now a thing of the past.  She was on her way to becoming herself again.

We never spoke about the hospitals and of our trials there.

Her eyes would well up when she saw her wedding bangles, or an ornate dress, or the photos from our journeys.  But as I held her in my arms, her tears would stop, and she would be at peace again.

A day after her homecoming, I took her to a hair salon.  The hairdresser looked at her hair and stepped back in horror when I told her we needed to cut them short.  She would not do it.  It was a sacrilege, she said.  She could not bear to cut such long hair and have them fall on the floor.  It had taken years and decades for those long hair to be, and it seemed so ruthless to put scissors to them.  But I convinced her that there was no other way, that the hair were matted beyond redemption, and she with immense gentleness slowly cut them short.  My wife did not flinch during that session, and when afterward she looked at herself in the mirror, she looked almost fashionably modern.

To climb a mountain is difficult only if one does not want to climb.  To a mountaineer, or to one on a pilgrimage, every step of the ascent is sacred, and fulfilling.  The legs may get tired, but one can rest.  The strength comes only partly from the muscle.  The real strength is in the heart.

(to be continued)