But this post is not about such self righteous grumbling as all this. While I hope I'm not part of the problem, I know I am certainly not part of the solution. Not yet, anyway. Its just that its somehow harder to see sick children than it is to see sick adults. But such emotional agonising aside, what this post is really about is death.
You really cant escape thinking it over when you see ill people as often as some of us do. And while some deal with it by detaching themselves and training their minds to reduce suffering humans to lists of signs, symptoms and differential diagnoses and such (I'm not saying this is a bad method, on the contrary, I think this really helps in solving real world problems when you could easily turn into an inefficient snivelling morass, instead of a useful doctor), I deal with it by periodically trying to face up to the impact it makes on my psyche, by talking about it, thinking about it, instead of pushing it to the back of my mind. So, here goes.
A thirteen-year old asked me today if I believed in heaven. Now, this wasnt really a tricky or morally difficult question to answer since the child wasnt desperately ill or anything. I think it was just a question she was asking. Ignoring the potential minefield of my rational thoughts, I told her that I did and she said that she hoped it existed, too. Then, she said she hoped to meet her father there when she died. He'd died when she was six years old and in this very hospital. That is why she was scared of going to the hospital. Becoz people came here and died. I told her it was not so. That she wud get better and go home and grow up to be healthy. And it was on this note, I thought it wise to end the conversation and walk away to the next kid's bed to see what case my friends were looking at.
You see, I dont really believe in any kind of afterlife. I think this life is pretty much it. And when our brain dies, we die. I dont find this thought morbid or depressing in the least. I think it makes the time we spent with our loved ones, precious in the extreme. It also makes the value of lost chances infinite. Other people, however, probably find the idea of being eternally joined with their loved ones in some kind of Utopia for souls, comforting. A lot of the people I've talked this over with, wistfully long for second chances. A friend whose dog died was convinced she'd walk him again in heaven and called me insensitive when I jokingly told her there may be a separate dog heaven. I think I tend to use humour in situations where I dont seem to be able to empathise properly. But somehow, honestly, the idea of spending forever and ever, which is a really long time, with people we knew in one life is kinda boring. I cant stand my brother 24/7 and I sure hope I dont have to hang out with him for eternity. See, what I mean about the humour?
I know that the older I grow, the more I shall see people around me die. I realised it when I heard about my junior college botany professor dying of hepatitis. I accept it now. I know that the people I've loved who've died, my grandparents and my childhood friend, Tasleem, are lost to me forever. And while, I wud give anything to meet them again, I know it is not possible. And that makes me cherish their memory and the love we shared, even more. But perhaps, that is not enuff for everyone.
So, do I feel like I wilfully lied to a gullible child today? Yes. Do I regret it? No.