Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Enigmatic Smile

(To know more about this Duet, click here.)

Art by Rukmini Poddar

Art & Words Duet: Day 4
The Enigmatic Smile

"Mrs. Donahue, mother of Lalita, requested a chaplain."

I glanced at my clipboard. "Okay, I'll see her. When?"


"Will do," I nodded and through the halls until I reached the cancer wing of the hospice.  

I had met with Mrs. Donahue before, and when I saw her in a waiting chair, she rose to her feet, tears in her eyes. "Samantha," she greeted me. "It's Lalita." 

"How is she?" 

"She's leaving. I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm being suffocated,"

"I hear that you're feeling overwhelmed with pain," I said, "Even your body is reacting,"

"Yes, yes. I need someone to be there with me with her. More family is arriving soon and I'm not sure how I'll handle this."

I placed a hand on her shoulder and then we walked in to the hospice room of her daughter. Lalita was propped up on a bed. She had insisted on not wearing any hospital-type garb and simply wore an old, well-loved tank top. She had requested that all the tubes be taken out of her nose and wrists, and so her breathing was labored and rattled.

But her face. Both her mother and I just stopped at the doorway, staring. Lalita's eyes were closed, and her mouth formed a smile that spread through her entire face and radiated from her body. She was whispering something.

Mrs. Donahue and I approached the teenager, wary. Was Lalita in her right mind? Had taking out the tubes affected her mental functions?

Lalita opened her eyes and looked at both of us. Her eyes shone, her gaze was straight and true and unblinking. "Thank you for being here, Chaplain Jones," she said softly.

"Thank you for allowing me to be here," I responded.

"Mother," Lalita turned to Mrs. Donahue and held out a hand. "Please chant with me,"

They clasped hands and began to chant what I knew to be Hare Krishna. At one point Lalita was too weak to continue to chant so her mother continued to softly chant the mantra and Lalita listened with that rapt smile, her face radiating a peace and joy I had never witnessed before. Lalita had once explained the meaning of the Hare Krishna mantra to me, that it was actually a personal invocation to God. I sat next to the mother in this vigil.

Other close family and friends began to show up. One young man began to sing Hare Krishna, and everyone responded. Call and response ensued, and I caught on enough to sing in the response (barely). The smile blossomed even more on Lalita's face. At one point she gestured for me to come close. I leaned in. She spoke softly: "This is the perfection of my life,"

Soon after, Lalita left us. 

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