Funeral attire or hospital gown . . !

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THEY came in fancy funeral attire! Friends and relatives in their Sunday best, carefully preserved for occasions like this; a funeral of a young relative! I’d come early, and expected nobody!

Because no one had come when she, with kidneys failing, and no money in the bank had dialed me for help. With the help of her kind neighbour, a youngster, with the spirit of a Good Samaritan in him, we’d got her to hospital, paid her bills, and got her through one dialysis after another, and then another call,

“Sir, I can’t see!” I’d spoken to her husband in the US, her brother, and others, but even as they picked up the phone and heard me pleading, refused to step in, and at some stage there was no one to take her to the hospital, and none to lift her up the stairs. So, sadly she decided that even if there was money to pay her bills, she would rather face death, then the mortification of strangers carrying her up and down. Today, those missing relatives came in their liveried best! I watched, surprised as some burst into tears. “You could have saved those tears!” I whispered to myself, “If you’d taken it in turns at the hospital!”

There was a nip in the air, around this suburb so far from the city, and yet they had all come, braving the early morning rush, and now they greeted each other in hushed tones. I envied their tears, as they lowered her into the grave. There was a cry from one of her cousins, and I saw her brother dab his hanky to his eyes, even as he, suddenly conscious of my stare, turned his face away, guiltily.

A bit of mud flew from the gravedigger’s spade onto the shimmering black dress of a relative. I watched her rush hurriedly to a tap to remove the guilty stain, “She needs to keep the dress spotless,” I thought, “for the next funeral, and the next and next!” I walked to the husband, he turned quickly away, thinking I might have come for the money I’d spent on her.

I didn’t. I shook his hand, “It was lucky I was in India, in my mother’s house!” he said. “Lucky?” I asked. “Yes, not in the US, so I could attend her funeral!” he said. “But if you were here, why weren’t you by her side taking her to the hospital for her dialysis?” I screamed silently, and walked away, shaking my head, and telling myself to calm down, that this was a funeral.

Yes, a funeral, beautiful clothes, wonderful message from the priest of the church just five minutes from her home. How we love funerals, throng them, shed tears at them, but never think we could save a death if we decided to trade our Sunday best for hospital gown..!