I know a young lady, K, who works as a secretary in a government institution. She's charming and intelligent and never failed to help me on the occasions I toddled over to her office to get something done.
Her cheerful manner masked many problems at home. The rising cost of living was taking its toll on her family, just like millions of others in the country. The biggest problem, however, was the inability to conceive, even after 5 years of marriage. They had gone down the usual paths, timing the cycle, ovarian stimulation, IVF. The tension was driving a wedge between K and her husband. Then, when they had almost given up hope, the pregnancy test came up positive. Her quiet glow of happiness was beautiful to behold. Parents, in-laws and relatives fussed over her, her husband became the doting lover of years gone by and life was good.
A couple of months later, her husband P wasn't feeling well. Their little world came crashing down around them... at barely 40 years, he was diagnosed with rectal cancer. The malignancy had already invaded the surrounding tissues and his liver was dotted with secondary deposits. Surgery was performed as soon as possible, leaving P with a permanent colostomy. K held him close and comforted him through all the pain and distress of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.
A few weeks went by and suddenly K felt a sharp pain deep inside her. To her horror, her water bag broke shortly afterwards and life blood started to drain out from their precious baby. She was rushed to hospital and with the medication, rest and perhaps the prayers of her loved ones, the miscarriage was averted.
Since then she has been lying on a bed in a gynae ward... doctors had warned against any unnecessary activity or mental stress. Just relax and take it easy, they told her. Her friends and relatives visited daily. Little gifts were always near her bedside. Bottles of Horlicks. A fluffy new towel. A pink bed-jacket trimmed with dainty ribbons. Her mother kept a watchful eye on her, seeing to her every need.
Aunty (K's mum) wasn't too well herself. Poorly controlled diabetes topped the list. Maybe she didn't have the time or energy to care for herself. Maybe it was the stress. Maybe it was just meant to be. Aunty woke up one day and found that she could only mumble. She could barely lift herself off the bed and her limbs on one side felt useless... she had suffered a stroke. Another admission, this time to the stroke unit.
P was meanwhile in and out of hospitals. Maharagama, NHSL and back. He was stick thin and getting weaker by the day. He worried about his unborn child, about K, her mum and their deteriorating finances. Worsening bouts of pain would rack his body, seemingly unaffected by morphine. When I saw him 2 days ago he was lying crumpled on a bed, his entire body twitching due to low serum calcium (tetany). He stared dimly at me with sunken eyes. I spoke his name, but not an eyelid flickered in response.
P died early this morning.
K, devastated by grief insisted on going home. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and sadness she is experiencing. I continue to pray for her unborn child. I dread meeting her at the funeral tomorrow... my own inadequacy to comfort a sorrowing fellow human being shames me.
Bad things all too often happen to good people.