It was a visit long due. My father had spoken about him the day before he died. He had wanted us to go visit and meet him as a family. And now that I finally meet him this morning, I understand why.
His name is Sakeer. He is in his early thirties and we are related. My father’s father had remarried in his late fifties. He (my father) had eight step-sisters and one step-brother, all of who were much much older than him. Sakeer’s great grandmother was one of those sisters. Why is this relevant, you might wonder. It is relevant only because of my fascination for my roots. Fascination and acknowledgement now, but at one point it was denial.
Sakeer has been bedridden for the past three years. He had been in an accident which injured both his legs. He recalls sitting in a little shop at a street close to home He saw a car collide with a two-wheeler and before he knew it, it crashed into the shop he was sitting in. One of his legs was crushed under the wheels of the car and the other one was stuck inside the bumper.
Three years and close to ten surgeries later, this is how it is now. Most of the bones of the legs broken, and nerves damaged, he is practically immobile. He had to recently have his ankle bone removed from one the legs because of an infection. What you see in the picture is how he is now. There is also the metal frame that’s attached to his leg. He hopes to have that frame taken out in a few months. And hopefully he’ll be able to support himself with crutches or a walker, or have one of those three-wheel vehicles so that he can get around. All these last three years, he has spent his time in hospitals, operation theaters, intensive care units, or cooped up in his little room you see here.
What blew me away was his spirit and aliveness! After he had shared about his current status, I asked him, “How do you feel?”. He started to respond by sharing how he doesn’t feel physically strong after being immobile for so long and about his backache. I then asked him again, “How do you feel about being bedridden for so long, how are you coping emotionally?” I was floored by his response. This is what he said. He felt grateful to be alive. He was grateful to be able to see his children and family everyday. He said it could have been worse. He then expressed regret over my brother who had died in a car crash, and was thankful that he was alive. He was grateful even though his previous treatment wasn’t professional enough and even though it delayed the healing of his leg. He is grateful to have found the right people now. He mentioned that, in the past when he used to be active, before this crash, he had always been present and ready to help anyone and everyone in need. And now he is grateful to see that it’s all coming back to him. He feels that he is where he is right now, because of the kindness and compassion of everyone around him.
His monthly visits to the doctor are organized by his brother’s friends who own vehicles, which saves him from spending about 3000 rupees each time. They have a little community of youngsters in that little town and that’s not limited to any specific faith. He mentioned that this group, the youth wing of that little town, his family and friends – they all have contributed hugely to his healing journey, and it’s solely because of them that he was here today.
There was not an ounce of self pity in his speech. His body might be weak and immobile, but his mind and spirit was alive and present. In fact he said he doesn’t sit and wallow in self pity and that if he could be useful to anyone in this condition, he still would be.
People like him and many others like give us the gift of reality check of what challenges in life really are. It teaches us that it’s all a matter of perspective and most are lucky to be where we are. If he can find so many things to be grateful for, considering where he is, then we bloody hell can and should !
This takes me to a conversation with friend who was describing a crash he was in, a few years ago. What moved and touched me the most was his presence and compassion even though he was injured and was in deep pain. While in ambulance, he noticed that the guy who crashed into him was also injured and was screaming in pain, bleeding from his ears and not being attended to. He said he urged the staff to attend to him quickly, and also personally reassured the person his injury was probably not so severe and that the bleeding from his ear might just be from broken glass and not from any serious internal bleeding.
I was surprised by the presence and response by my friend at that time. I make the assumption that if I had been in his place, I would have been completely self absorbed. He, matter of fact, said, “I couldn’t physically move, and the only thing I could do at that point to help him was speak to him, put my hand out, reach out to him and let him know he that was going to be fine, and that’s what I did.”
He spoke of it as it was his duty to do so and not something out of the ordinary.
This brings me to this, phrase, Make Every Breath Count. That is how Sakeer is living his life now, living in the present, making the most of his life. Not being stuck in the past of how it used to be, not worrying about the future.
And that is what my friend did too, while he was being driven to the emergency when he was in a critical condition. He was present to another who was in need.
And this is how I strive to live my life. By making every breath count.
August 25, 2017