That night definitely was the darkest and the coldest. Uday and Ishita had hit the bed forcing a sleep, with their backs to each other. Uday tossed and toiled facing the blank dark walls. Ishita faced the French windows with hands tied, brows in tight lock. Two set of closed eyes visualized the past twenty day’s dilemma. Ever since Uday’s amma had thrown the toughest question of life, rather question of death to them. “I just cannot tolerate the torturous pain of chemo anymore Uday. My will power is surrendered to the withering body of mine. Ishita, I may live hardly another few days? Uday is my son and you my sunshine”. And with all the emotional splutters, she had requested them to end her life with one injection.
Uday and Ishita were leading surgeons in popular hospital in Manipal. Yet so helpless being doctors. Uday’s mother had survived cancer for hardly six months, and there was no way she could be saved from the clutches of the disease in this dreadful stage. She had devoted her life and love to her son and daughter in law. In return, Uday and Ishita had given their best of love. Ishita had taken an extra step, supported her throughout. Six months before, as the cancer was diagnosed to have spread badly, Ishita had taken up dual role, been with amma through all her painful and emotional moments, like a mother and a daughter-in-law.
Acknowledging her worsening medical condition very well, amma had blown the little peace out of their lives. By demanding to end her life, with her own will, against the rule of nature, freeing her from the torture. Whoever has scheduled one’s death or birth? A mother schedule’s her child’s birth and only God or fate as per belief, schedules one’s death. This is the rule we live with. But amma had thought beyond. In her own way of being practical yet cynical?
Uday and Ishita were left shattered. Call it a son’s duty and it seemed too selfish not to agree to her. Such was her medical and mental condition. She did not want a few more days of life that triggered the onset of a death. A miserable death. Call it a doctor’s duty and it was against law. Euthanasia had been a subject of debate for past decades in courts of law and in the medical world. However, Supreme Court had given out a historic judgment in recent past for a severely bad case allowing part euthanasia. But Uday knew amma’s case would fall weak and gnaw away little peace left in their lives. Would Uday and Ishita live with the regret and remorse of not fulfilling amma’s secret last wish? Wait. Which one was the regret? To inject his amma and free her from a hell called agony, and open gates of heaven? Or to not fulfill her last wish, to not be that obedient son who considered mother’s wish to be not her command but his mission of love too?
From the day, amma had put forth her trickiest life death request, Uday and Ishita’s dilemma multiplied magnitude unknown. Their post dinner talks turned into nightmare silences. Most times, they sat across the tea table, hands tied, gazing alternatively outside their French window, and at each other. Barely any talks happened that mattered.
Then, on that dark and frosty night, Ishita broke the silence. Being the stronger half most times, “Uday, we MUST support amma”. No long pauses. No short ones. No hyperbole. No choice of dramatic words. Ishita was playing role of being the most pragmatic self, daughter-in-law and mom to her mother in law. Uday looked at her with no astonishment, surprise, as if he waited what was coming from her. Deepest in his heart he was nodding to this. Yes. He did. His words however showed great displeasure. “She gave birth to me. I can’t let her to chose and end herself. It’s my duty to find solution to her agony. Amma’s helplessness is valid. We aren’t. This is not a solution.” His words stormed, in complete disharmony with his belief. He knew. He did. That amma was helpless because he was helpless. Amma found this as solution, because this WAS the solution. Not anything else.
That was what life presented to them on platter.
Ishita let out heavy breath, in complete agreement with his disagreement. Both yawned away and hit the bed. That night, they slept with their backs to each other. The sound of the ceiling fan and long breath of both was all that made up the room. Just when life was all honey and sugar, fate strikes. The abrupt illness of amma, in a last stage of in-curable cancer was not just unexpected; it was an in-curable scar on the family's well being. Ishita was afraid to open her eye lids and locked them hard, as if she could hide away from harsh reality for a while. Amma, in sheer despair wanted solace. If not save amma, Ishita at the least wanted to pacify her aching which too seemed impossible day by day. Uday had his mind’s visuals haunting him. Those 28 years of her love to him. His heart skipped a breath as thought came striking blows. From holding his toddler fingers, to his soccer paraphernalia in his school, to his graduation certificate as a proud mother of a doctor, seemed like a cherished dream that just ended. Ended when amma begged them to end her life. The hands that gifted him the best half to himself called Ishita. “She was an obedient daughter-in-law. Why did she decide to agree to amma’s last wish? No. No..no..Why am I fueling the benefit of doubt? There isn’t any. No how I can I doubt her trust, her love and warmth”...Uday’s thoughts were finding a base clouding away from emotional trauma.
By, zero hours, past midnight, both were still awake. Uday slid slightly towards her, turned and held her hand. They were moist, probably from consoling those tears that tore her tired eyes each night. Holding her palm in his he stroked it softly in resonance with the left over tears she broke down with. Uday’s stroke on her soft still moist palm, were the mouth piece to his heart, telling aloud words his dry mouth hesitated to tell aloud” Ishita, you are right. Amma has not been wrong in her demand. If she has chosen that, she deserves it. Every human deserves to live and die with dignity. Yes, it all appears too distasteful Ishita. But we shall fulfill her last wish. We will”. He stopped stroking her palm, and only words he told aloud were “Ishita, I will have to go against the law”. Uday’s tears were long exhausted; they now lived in the reality that had a backseat for emotional stress. And they stared at the ceiling in the dark before falling into deep slumber.
It had been twenty days to this night, past amma’s request of her last wish, after which the doctor couple had fought their emotional upheavals over doctor’s profession. After what seemed like the longest night, as dawn settled in, Ishita woke up. Seeing Uday in disturbed sleep she quietly slid off the cot. Rubbed her aching eyes almost kneading them, tied her hair in traditional bun, and prayed with folded hands. Much unaware of her swollen eyes, she ran her errands in kitchen then went on to check on amma. By then Uday was up. He had reached amma’s room to check on amma. Ishita clicked open the doors trying to make the least noise. Uday was sitting still next to amma, holding her hands checking her pulse. He was staring the walls with blank eyes and no timely blinks. Witnessing what seemed like a bolt from blue, Ishita’s curious eyes opened wide like hot balls of despair. Uday showed no signs of movement. With thousand questioned heavy heart, Ishita took slow strides towards Uday. Neither did her husband acknowledge her nor did amma. Amma looked much in her peaceful sleep. Ishita dropped next to Uday in disbelief.
Is this the serendipity a stroke of fate? Was that dark night amma’s last night? Was this peaceful end a divine intervention coming to aid all the three? May be.
But there is a greater concern over the moral issue. Such a case of euthanasia still remains unsolved till we come across another amma.