The Thing About Pain

“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” – John Green

How seventeen of me to quote The Fault In Our Stars when I want to talk about heart wrenching pain. But – again super cliché – that’s the kind of pain I have been experiencing for the past month. A pain so all encompassing that my feelings outside it blurs together. I keep trying to push it away, but it keeps resurfacing. Slicing my heart open all over again.

April of 2014 will be a month that my family is not going to forget for the rest of our lives. On first April 2014, my uncle – my dad’s brother-in-law – passed away. He was fifty. The world felt like it was collapsing around us. Until we got the news, on the second of April 2014, my other uncle – my dad’s own eldest brother – had also left us. He was forty nine.

I couldn’t breathe. Air wouldn’t push itself out of my lungs. I gasped and choked even as tears streamed down my face. I tried to put this post off for a very long time. The pain is still so raw that even as I type, my eyes are filling up and brimming over.

Sundar Kalainath, my aunt’s husband was first diagnosed with cancer in his thigh. After several misdiagnosis’s, the doctors confirmed the tumour and proceed to simply remove the tumour from its location – instead of the more common method of treatment in his case: amputation. They told us that they had gotten all of it. They were wrong. The tumour spread to his lungs. Ironic how I quoted The Fault In Our Stars huh?

My uncle could have let his cancer define him, but he was always better than that. A nicer, gentler human you could not have even conjured up. He was a gem, one in a million and I miss him so much. I have never heard him raise his voice, hell I’ve never heard him say one bad thing about another human being. And his faith, oh his faith. My aunt and uncle were always very close to God. They were an integral part of the church and they reveled in it. He kept his faith till the very end and if anything else, it only got stronger as time wore on. My uncle was always making plans for the future. His eyes would light up when he spoke about investments and new developments in his city. They were unable to have kids of their own, so they showered me, my brother and all our cousins with extra love. He would always be talking to us about college and further studies and oh god he wasn’t supposed to die. After struggling with the cancer for three years he left us to be with our Father in Heaven. Although he was too tired to speak during his last few hours, when his pastor prayed with him in the hospital, he said it clear and strong: Amen.

Pastor Samuel ,my uncle. The family and most of the world called him Thamban even though his official name is Samuel. There’s a word in Tamil for his relation to me. I’d call him periappa. Peria meaning big and appa meaning father. He is my dad’s older brother so he was my elder dad. And boy did he fill that role with aplomb. My father and him had a bicycle related accident when they were kids. My dad had a broken leg but – and I’ll always be grateful to the Lord for this – was otherwise unharmed. My uncle however was paralyzed from the waist down and spent the rest of his life bed ridden. But he didn’t let that stop him. He forged a stronger relationship with God and began preaching the gospel. He started his own church and was a pastor and a servant of the Lord till the day he left us to join him. My memories of my periappa are innumerable and it hurts me to recount them, but I’ll say this: I would give anything to have had more time with him.

All of us have felt like a piece of us was lost forever. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of both of them. It still hurts everyday just like the day we found out but we’ve come out of it and we’re stronger and grateful. The Lord has given me and my family strength beyond measure. Without him I don’t know what we would have done.

That’s the thing about pain. It numbs you and electrifies you at the same time. It makes you want to lock yourself away to grieve and yearn company like a sapling yearns sunlight. It’s inescapable but eventually forgettable. I wait for the day when the pain is forgotten and I can think of my two uncles and smile, till I can join them again.


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