The Last Wish

The Last Wish
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What is the biggest problem with you right now?”
I asked Mr. Jason.

This was Mr. Jason’s last consult with a Neurologist. At the age of 45, he knew he had only a few weeks’ life left. His wife was all composure, but the sad pressure bottled in her heart was clearly seen in her eyes, the weak effort she made to smile only worsening the suffering on her face.

He was smiling. With shaking hands, Jason grabbed the control stick of his motorised wheelchair, and positioned himself well. He turned left, and from a straw that was attached to the back of his wheelchair, he sucked some water in hasty sips. In slow, haphazard and jerky movements of neck and eyes, he looked at his wife sitting on his other side, then turned his head to me. He appeared to be thinking.

“The biggest problem I think right now is the amount of money spent on wars. So many million children remain hungry, illiterate and unclothed, still billions of dollars are wasted in wars”..

For one moment I thought he was mentally slipping. Another moment I thought he misunderstood the question. Then, as a tear slowly formed in his eye and started to roll down upon his still smiling face, he answered the question in my mind: “You are from India, right Doc? I read from your mythology that all humanity is one, single soul. .. My body will go now, so will my illness.. My only worry is for those who remain after me. I am used to pain, but not defeat. I wanted to work for deprived children. I have donated much of what I have for the underprivileged children.” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Then, ignoring the tears he could not wipe as his hands could not reach his face, he added “I came today only to say thank you. You doctors do such a wonderful job upon earth! You listen to all worries, suffering every day of your life. Death and tears are your daily company. How horrifically this must affect you all! You save lives, you take away suffering, but you give away your own life in doing so. I just wanted to say thank you to every doctor who has treated me”.

I held his shaking hand, now violently shaking because he had become emotional. As I choked upon words, I realised his wife was crying too.
“My wife will write to you later. God Bless You. Goodbye.” he said.

In this set up from a Western University, patients of terminal neurological conditions were brought in, aware that it was their last consult with the specialist, and hereafter they shall only receive general care from their GP. They came prepared with a list of questions, sometimes certain legal documents that they wanted the specialist to sign. Some patients were beyond awareness, their relatives completed the formalities for them. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
They were often required to obtain signatures about mental fitness from the Neurologist, while finalising their will. This sometimes included the wishes about the details of their last rites: the space in the cemetery, the quality, type, size of and the engraving upon their own tombstone, and other details.

In an ironical way it was a severer punishment for the doctor and relative, for they would endure this memory longer.

A young boy of 26 who knew he would die in a few months came over once to obtain signatures on his will. He had requested to not spend anything or even mark his place of burial, donating all his belongings to a charity. “I want the world to forget me. I want to forget this life myself”. He explained, “There are better things than me for the world to remember”.

How difficult it is to overcome oneself? How difficult is it to think for others above oneself, at least at par with oneself? Spending years after years in Me, Mine, Myself, we waste away such a brilliant chance to extend happiness to so many others who desperately need it, in the form of love, affection, food, respect and other basics of life! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Competition, enmity and bitterness in our rat race of earning more, being above others and accumulating more than we need has become a routine. Truly blessed are those who are not addicted to accumulation, those who realise that nothing lasts beyond their last breath!

My boss Dr. GR repeated almost every day: “Rjaas, there’s nothing more stupid than dying with too much money in your bank. It passes on the wrong culture to the next generation”. Of course the money-wise world around him was scared of his attitude, which they thought was ‘impractical’. Coming from India, where almost all major saints advised against accumulation, I respected him deeply for his maturity.

After a few weeks, I received a note sent by Mr. Jason’s wife:

“Jason left us quietly in his sleep three days ago. I have decided to continue his work. I am leaving next week for the aid of children in war torn middle east. Jason felt that the only proof of humanity in someone was their caring for others. He so much wanted to visit India, he often said it is a land of saints. I hope I will fulfil his dream one day and visit India. If so, we will meet. Thank you for caring for us”.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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