I recently watched many videos on YouTube on Rheumatoid Arthritis. The first time I heard that word was from a friend who said she had it. The videos disturbed me and I recalled snippets of her blog entries describing similar experiences.
This friend had first appeared in my high school class in the middle of an academic year. The Gulf war had broken out and they had to flee and come back to India. She was stout, with a big, round mouth and prominent teeth and a big laugh. In my eyes, everything was big about her except her hair. Her hair was short. Or what we called, bob cut. I, the villager, didn’t know then that there was a country called Kuwait. Since she had come from “foreign”, I thought she ate a lot of chocolates and was privileged.
Some people’s struggles with sickness are the stuff that many of us cannot imagine. But it resonates with people who suffer similarly; just as she has found strength and comfort in reading those that have suffered more than her. But is that the purpose of her life - to inspire others like her. Motivate those who may be having a harder time than her; to say to them, to not give up; to hold on for just a day more; to keep the faith. That despite her illness, she has found ways and means to share laughter and jokes, build friendships with people she may not have met in real life or renew those from her past – online. To experience the selfless love of her spouse who stood beside her like a rock of Gibraltar. That life can have meaning even when one feels there is none. That the daily chores of cooking, cleaning and washing can either turn into an unbearable drudgery or ways to engage one -self in tasks that keep one’s mind busy. She has lived through her illness with a lot of grace and strength. I wonder if she’d be the kind of woman she is if it weren’t for what she went through and is going through.
I have been reading a lot on the role of pain in human life. Is pain good? We all want to be happy. We actively chase happiness and do everything in our capacity to avoid pain. Being healthy is a huge part of being happy. But what if pain befalls us? What if it is our destiny to be in a state of health that needed constant medical intervention, family support and care? How does one live through it? Why should I live through it?
Someone wrote it beautifully when he said the following. Here is a snapshot of the lines.
Many of the stories of grief and sorrow, of loss, of bereavement, have the power to comfort another similarly suffering, weary soul. When we read some of the life experiences of people on the internet, we are thankful that our load is a lot lighter. That life truly is a gift, even when it sucks and you feel there couldn’t possibly be anything worse than this. That life is short. That some days are really good and pleasant even when there is an overcast sky outside. That family is everything. That family need not mean 10 siblings and 100 relatives. Sometimes, it’s just your spouse beside you and he alone is equal to an army. Many say grief is similar to death. When you go through something that is sorrowful, your old soul dies and you have to recreate your life from nothing but the will to live. You know that if you have been able to get through this, the worst, you can get through anything.
Pain cleanses and purifies us in a way that happiness cannot. I guess the people who suffer unbearable physical or emotional pain leave behind a whiff of hope - that all is still not lost. I remember reading the story of this labourer from Rajasthan who was gang-raped, and was left to die on a railway track. Her mother tried to make some money by brokering a deal with the rapists and then, abandoned her. She is fighting a legal battle, all alone. She is now working for an NGO and learning to read and write. One life and such power to transform the lives of others!