The last few moments of his life were when he understood the purpose of life, its meaning that he had failed to comprehend until now. Emotions invaded his still brilliant eyes. He had realized his mistakes, but life hardly gives anyone a second chance. Just a few years of continuous drug and alcohol abuse had taken a heavy toll on him. It had eroded the life in his years and erased the years in his life. All of us knew the end was near. The last few of his uttered sentences were eloquent filled with emotional words of love, and apology. He wanted us to forgive him for all his mistakes. Our mere presence was a relief to him, he said. He spoke about the kings and the white horses that would come take him away to heaven. I wasn’t sure whether it was him or his side effects speaking. His words were drowned in a cough that he was fighting to suppress. He fell silent, as if he accepted the inevitable, as if there wasn’t any need to speak, as if he wanted to fall asleep once and for all. We were all there watching when teardrops swelled in his eyes, and rolled over his pale cheeks. His eyes were now speaking the words his tongue failed him to. There was a momentary gloom on his face, and then all of a sudden it lit up. Might be, he saw the golden chariot on the horizon!
Latha was there crying all along. She held his hands between hers, clasping as if she would not let anyone steal him away from her. Her tears were unstoppable. He was her life’s purpose and now he lay right in front of her, waiting silently for the inevitable and permanent departure. She was there in his joy and sorrow, success and failure. But now, this pain was unacceptable. . She loved him so much that she wished she could trade her life with his. I felt he understood her emotions and could read her mind without her speaking about it. But he kept quiet and did not say anything to comfort Latha. He just took her hands, kept it on his forehead and asked her whether death is going to be painful. After all, in her lap he always felt comfortable, just like a newborn child. She kissed his forehead. A teardrop from Latha’s moist eyes jeweled his eyebrows. He kissed her hand in return and closed his eyes. I think he wanted to cry aloud but managed to put a brave smile on his face. I was not able to control my tears; I do not remember myself crying ever before.
His brother, Giri, was weeping profusely near his bed. He was his friend, philosopher, well-wisher and the world to Giri. They hugged and recalled the memories of the good old times, the amazing trip to the foothills of the Himalayas, the white water rafting, bungee jumping in Rishikesh and many a bike trip on the faithful Royal Enfield in search of exotic birds through the length and breadth of Kerala. He promised that he would be there with him whenever he needed, whenever he took the bike and hit the road. An inconsolable Giri fell on his chest as if he were listening to his fading heartbeat.
Next was my turn to bid farewell to my buddy. We had 15-20 years of fond memories to talk about and laugh. Instead, he just said one meaningful word, “Thank You”. I put on a brave smile and told him “Always welcome”. He reminded me, “You have to fill in my part. Please take care of her and let her never cry ever again.” He asked me to take his diary, read it and then burn it. Till then, I never knew the fact that he maintained a diary. He had a special few to whom he wished me to convey his love, regards and well wishes. I also typed his last e-mail and Facebook message and sent them out for him. The message was simple – “I had got love here. I hope it will be the same wherever I go. Thanks for making my life wonderful while here. Cheers!” I had to deactivate the accounts after that. By then my hands were shaking and I was feeling dizzy.
A cold breeze found its way into the hospital room disturbing our farewell. He wanted Latha to pull the blanket up his chest. He closed his eyes, whispering that he wanted to sleep. He held my hands firmly. Slowly, his body went numb, his grip eased and the palm lost its warmth. He was no more. His still lips remained stretched in an unfinished smile. We felt ourselves slipping into a vacuum created by his absence. That moment, I realized that I had lost something that would never be replaced and our lives had changed from then on. My legs trembled. They couldn’t hold me further. I sat down. I could see Latha, his mother had already fainted on his still body. Giri, with dry eyes, was staring at the smiling face that Hari left behind. My heart questioned, “God, is this what I lived all my 60 years to see? Is this the same happy family that it was a week back? My son, my friend – Hari is gone. We were more than a father-son duo, we were two happy friends. Still he drifted far away from me. Why didn’t you give him a chance?” As Hari lay there lifeless, my younger son and wife shattered, I sat sobbing with one hand on Giri’s head and the other one on Hari’s cold head.
This piece was inspired by an article about the demise of a teenage boy to drug abuse. He was a brilliant student who fell into the trap of drugs, alcohol and cancer sticks. Ten years after his death, his family spoke about the void that his death had caused in their lives and how things could never be the same again in their daily lives.