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Short story

The pain management

The formidable look on the surgeon's face reflected my father's condition. Having seen hundreds of patients in critical conditions, generally surgeons are steel faced when passing a prognosis of a terminal case, like a seasoned judge who would pronounce a death sentence to a deserving criminal, without any expressive emotion. However, in both cases a closer look at such a face, if possible preferably at such a heart, would reveal the massive momentary tension they are engulfed with, in view of the glimpses of humane sympathies overtaking the toughness attributed to them by their professions.

"There is hardly any chance for recovery," the surgeon murmured to my ear in a pathetic tone. My father was looking at him so humbly, I was sure, earnestly awaiting in his thumping heart nothing but an assertive word from this renowned doctor.

"I am sure he can put me right," my father repeatedly told when a close friend of him had convinced him of some of the miracles this renowned surgeon had done. He was almost obsessed with a strong desperate belief that this doctor would snap him back to a healing path.

"How long could he survive?" I asked. I felt my voice was broken.

"Well, frankly I can't say. His wounds are massive. The tumour has spread along. And he is very weak which means his wounds are very unlikely to heal..." Surgeon went on slowly in a firm but pathetic tone. In a corner of my eyes I saw how attentively my father was watching the surgeon's body language. He was trying to force a smile.

"Gedara gihin viveken inna, Okkoma hariyavi" (go home and relax, everything will be fine), surgeon walked up to my father and said very kindly.

This was his last visit to a doctor. He didn't ask any question whatsoever or surprisingly looked sad either. Was he hiding his feelings, was he totally unaware of his plight or did he suddenly make up his mind to give up? I could never decipher his feelings.

Cancer is a dreadful thing. It enters one's body so silently like a terrorist group entering a peaceful city. It would slowly establish its domain in a couple of most vulnerable points and spread slowly but steadily and maliciously rooting into all the vital systems of the city in preparation for its final siege.

"Son, is this a cancer?," one day my father asked me pointblank. He was screaming in severe pain. His voice was feeble but the question was very firm. I was totally flabbergasted.

"Oh..well.. This is not a cancer exactly," I struggled to find appropriate words to say something. Just to wriggle out without further upsetting him.

"Yeah..you know.... this is some kind of an unusual wound ..Well, all these happen to living beings.."

"You are right, whatever it may be I wouldn't care if it were not for this terrible pain."

The thought whether I was committing an unpardonable sin by not telling him the truth was hurting me all the time. I was obsessed with an awkward feeling that I was a 'damn liar' in this respect. On the other hand what could I have told him? Perhaps, I would have been the happiest if I could have vented my mental agony by crying out, "Father you have a cancer, a cancer spread into all your vital organs... and you are doomed...yes, you are doomed to die a slow painful death. Nothing is certain but the death, nothing but the death." But would this truth have helped him feeling better?

This always reminds me of the famous old saying that "Associations of death are more fearful than the death itself". Why should we create more fearing associations of death to a man faced with death ?

One day I told him about pain management.

"Sounds interesting," my father said. Tone of his voice was somewhat scornful though. I knew he was not accepting my lesson on pain management yet pretended to be attentive.

"Will this really work?" He finally asked with a forced smile on his face.

"Why not? This is a psychological therapy practiced in a lot of hospitals in the west.. Well ...That's what the book says. And for me it sounds pretty workable"

One day on my way back home I stumbled over a rock and badly sprained my ankle. Pain was so acute that none of the painkillers were of much help. I felt as if being continuously prickled by hundreds of sharp needles. Suddenly the lesson on 'Pain Management' struck my mind. I started my concentration on psychological self help process. Hours later still in severe pain I realized how theories are sometimes far distant from practice.

"That pain management technique," one day my father started to comment. I turned away so as to hide my blushes. "What kind of a fool you are to preach a stupid theory to a dying man," I was scolding myself within.

"Yes, I know it's somewhat difficult to do" I told in a broken tone.

"Well, looks like it works," father exclaimed to my astonishment.

"When I am recovered I want to go on a pilgrimage to Anuradhapura with the entire family," one day he told. I looked at his face and the mien was unmistakably enthusiastic. Either he was so blissfully ignorant that he had no clue of his own destiny or he was so incredibly courageous that he still fancied clutching at a straw for his life. In whichever case wasn't it a great way to face the final episode of life? With some hopes for the future!

In retrospect I always feel gratified that I hadn't vented my agony by unveiling him the truth which would've instantly taken away his last iota of hope for life. Whenever the claws of dark death continually tightens its inevitable grip, we all deserve just a glimmer of hope that would make us blissfully live up to the last exhalation than desperately dying at every single breath.


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