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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.