The Crossing: Spiritual resources in a health crisis– Dr. Hansa James

I gazed at a brook rambling between two lush green fields. It looked peaceful, harmless even cheerful. Dancing over the smooth pebbles, singing softly, it will soon join a larger river. Yet why does one Cringe in sheer terror at the river called Death? We do not even want to think about it! It’s strange but it’s a sure river one has to face some day. No one can escape it. Yet It’s not the river we fear but the crossing of the river. The very thought sends shivers down one’s spine! Some may know they will be at its banks to cross it soon. Some cross it, even before they could bat an eye lid, so swiftly!

What does one feel at the crossing? We will never know till we are there, at its banks.

The alert always comes suddenly when you least expect it. It may a biopsy report or a sudden crash, an accident or a catastrophe and you know you are there at its banks, awaiting the crossing!

I was a very active person, confident that I had many more years to look forward to and that the river could not trap me in anyway. All my lab reports had been normal. Then all of a Sudden, I had a crushing pain in my chest. I told myself I must have pulled my shoulder muscles. The pain started radiating to the left arm. I continued my activities convincing myself that my heart was strong and would not let me down.

I had immigrated to USA, to be with my children and to do all I can to help them. The last thought on my agenda was to become a problem to them. The more I ignored the pain the more it kept taunting me, despite all the analgesic cream I was applying. Finally at the end of the day I began vomiting. The retching alerted my daughter who came running up to my room. She bundled me into the car against my protests and took me to the ER. There they took an EKG, and the entire team went into a frenzy. Then came the shock. They told my daughter, ‘Your mom has an infarction of the heart, a heart attack.’ I saw the shock, the pain on my daughter’s face! The fear, the anxiety on her face shook me. But they wasted no time, they relieved me of my pain, called the ambulance and I was whisked away to a cardiac center.

Very soon I was entering the cardiac Cath room for intervention. Being an Anesthesiologist   myself, I knew what it meant. 2 decades ago, I had an attack in the operation theatre while I was anaesthetizing a patient. Fortunately, there were 2 anesthesiologists available, one to look after me and another to take over my patient. I ended up in Bypass graft surgery followed by septicemia due to some infection. I recovered slowly after 6 months. I vowed I will never go for bypass surgery again.

10 years later again while doing my usual rounds in the ER, I was gripped with sudden chest pain. Since I was in the ER, the cardiologist took care of me, and I ended with 2 stents and an angioplasty for the 3rd vessel. So, my God had saved me every time and He did this time too.

But as I was wheeled into the Cardiac cath room, in such urgency, and time was of essence, I knew I was heading for the crossing! I had almost died the first time, and now there was an infarction, a damaged heart. If stenting failed, they would have to open me up. Then I would be in imminent danger and may not survive. They did not give me much hope either.

The anguish on my daughter’s face haunted me. My son was in another state, in US. I thought of the pain he would suffer hearing the news. How would my little granddaughter who adored me, take it if I did not return? How will they care for my husband suffering from Parkinsonism, if I am gone? How would he take it?

I remembered the previous humorous discussions with my classmates on ‘Life after death’ and our various discussions according to our faiths and beliefs. I had been very sure of a life after death because the God who Himself suffered death for me on the cross and was resurrected is alive now. I had studied intensely on the subject of resurrection and so I was sure of going to a beautiful place with no sorrow or tears. The thought was exciting. But the pain of leaving the loved ones behind was sheer agony.

And so I was at the crossing. ‘Have mercy oh Lord, on my family’ I cried inwardly. ‘They need me. But if it is your will, that I need to come to you, make the crossing quick and smooth. Let me not linger in the crossing of the river, on a ventilator or in a stroke, dependent on others to care for me.’ This was the acid test of my belief system. Do I believe in a personal God who hears my prayer and answers me ? I knew I did. I knew He was the manufacturer of my box called life. The manufacturer will know the maximum weight the box can hold and will not place a weight beyond its limits. An intense peace filled me, as I whispered ‘Father, into your hands I place my future.’

The miracle took place. They managed to pass a stent into a totally blocked vessel, without worsening the damaged portion of the heart and made my BP stable!

The relief in my children to see me, and on the road to recovery was just palpable. The touching story of my daughter remembering my mom on a ventilator after my mom’s heart attack from which my mom never recovered deeply moved me. My daughter shared how at that time, after she left the hospital and went home, she saw the Mutton curry in the kitchen, my mom had prepared for us before her attack. My daughter said she could not touch it, seeing her grandma lifeless on the ventilator. This time when she went home with me in the ICU, she saw the chicken curry I had prepared for them on the dining table, before the severe angina. My daughter said she just broke down and pleaded with God for my life.

Yes, the crossing is the most painful part of human life.

Its only with Gods help we can cross it. I was told I still have 2 moderate blocks on the other 2 vessels, and they hope to keep me in the land of the living with strict methods and medication. So why was I constantly blocking my arteries when I had no risk factors, and I was a vegetarian?  The answer I was given was it was the family genetics. I was also an Indian and we have small blood vessels.   It did not make me bitter or blame God. I thought of the way He saved me all these times. Would God save me yet again like He did the last 3 times? That’s where my faith would play a big role.

After all, could we not trust an unknown future with a known God!

Could we not?

Dr. Hansa Jayakumar


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