As my 18 year-old son, Nachu was dying from the cancer, his breathing got shallower, with seconds of no breath, followed by a breath. We knew he would be leaving us soon. His family, friends, and teachers gathered around his hospital bed, all watching Nachu’s every move. Some people cried silently. Some watched wide-eyed, and some were simply in a state of shock. Gauri and Radha, his sisters, stood on either side of Nachu’s head, clutching his shoulders. I sat on the middle right side of the bed, holding his hand. My eyes fixed on him the whole time he was taking his last few breaths.
Suddenly, six or seven thin, cobweb-like, silver strings materialized over Nachu. One end of each string was attached to Nachu’s body and the other end stretched up to the heavens. These strings were all along the entire middle portion of Nachu’s body, from neck to pelvis. The thought immediately came, “These were the ‘ties that bind’, the attachments that humans have to the material world.” I saw that Nachu had a few strands. After all, he was just eighteen years old. He only had a few attachments. An older person like me would have hundreds.
As I watched in amazement, I saw a small pair of scissors materialize about three feet over the bed to the right of Nachu’s feet. With each breath Nachu took, the scissors moved slowly to the left and cut an individual cord. With each cut, the scissors moved towards Nachu’s head. As each string was cut, the severed bottom part fell lifelessly onto Nachu’s body while the other top part shot up to the universe, like an elastic band. As I tried to comprehend what was happening, Nachu took his second to last breath. Then there was just one cord left. The scissors hovered patiently in the air, waiting to cut.
I saw and somehow knew this last thread was just a micron thicker than the others. The understanding came to me that this final link was his biggest and strongest bond. It was his love for his sisters and me. Nachu was hesitating. I knew what I needed to do. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Nachu, go! Go towards the light. Go to dad. Dad is waiting for you. I love you, Nachu. Go, Nachu. Go towards the light. Go to Dad.”
Nachu took his final deep breath, the scissors made their last “cut”, and the lone string split. I felt a strong forceful breeze move upwards right past my left shoulder. At the same time, from up above, I heard Nachu shout, ‘Mom, I’m out of pain! I’m free!”
I looked up at the ceiling in wonder. He sounded amazed after all these months and months of suffering. I sensed Nachu’s presence, looking down at us, overjoyed to be released from the pain and agony of his diseased body. He was somersaulting in triumph. The chains that had held him down to his cancer-ridden body over the past eighteen months had shattered. His soul was singing! His soul was free. For a moment of time, I felt what he was feeling. There was endless bliss all around me and through me, in every pore of my body. Nachu was sharing his experience with me. I knew that he was liberated! Nachu was finally at peace. I started clapping wildly, and within seconds everybody in the room joined in.
As our applause ended minutes later, I finally tore away from my vision and glanced around the room. Watching this heavenly act, I completely forgot about everyone else. There was mass commotion. Everyone was sobbing.
While the loss of Nachu’s physical body was devastating, I couldn’t cry. Seeing everyone else break down, I asked myself, “Why am I not crying?” In my mind, I rapidly went through Nachu’s life. As a physician, I had never seen anyone suffer so much. It was Nachu who underwent the radiation and chemotherapy, with its ensuing nausea and vomiting. Nachu had excruciating gallstone attacks requiring removal of his gall bladder. It was Nachu who was bedridden for more than six months. Nachu was the one who his father carried on his back from bed, to car, to wheelchair for appointments. Nachu had to re-learn to walk. He was the one who constantly fractured bones that were fragile from months of inactivity. He was the one who became a skeleton when he lost seventy pounds on a lanky 6’2” frame. Nachu was the one who was going to the hospital every other day because of agonizing pain. He had countless CT and MRI scans, and endured poking with innumerable IVs. He was the one who became paralyzed from the chest down in his last few days. He was the one who was dependent on nurses to change his diapers while his friends tactfully looked in the other direction.
Worst of all, Nachu had to deal with the trauma of his father’s unexpected death while facing these challenges. Bedridden with no other physical activity, Nachu had to deal with the insurmountable traumatic mental torture much more so than the rest of us.
After sensing my son’s soul in overwhelming peace and joy, I could not cry. By what right did I want him back for my own happiness? It would be pure selfishness on my part as a mother to wish my child back, knowing the mental and physical pain he would suffer. He was free and in divine eternal happiness. No, I would not cry.
I won’t say it was easy. The people from the funeral home came with a body bag. The morticians put Nachu’s body in it and began to zip it up. Seeing this happen was incredibly harrowing. All my previous willpower melted. Nachu was being taken away from me forever. I felt claustrophobic. My throat constricted. For a moment, I faltered. My heart sobbed and screamed silently in anguish, “Nachu, my baby! You are leaving me, my beloved precious son!”
Then I heard Nachu’s voice above me, urgently saying, “Mom, Mom! You know that body is not me. That is just the outer shell I came to in this life. It is like the shedding of a snake’s skin. It’s not me, Mom. I’m here. Death ends nothing!” Suddenly, I understood! I looked up at the ceiling.
My mother was next to me, sobbing violently as she saw the funeral people collect Nachu’s body. I gently touched her shoulder and said, “Mom, it’s okay. That’s not Nachu. He just told me this body is his outer shell. He’s up there. Don’t cry.” I pointed towards the heavens.
My mom turned towards me and furiously pushed my hand away. With anger and pain in her eyes, she yelled, “Don’t you dare tell me any of this spiritual stuff. This is my grandson. This is my baby. He is dead. They are taking him away from me. You believe what you want. I will believe what I want.” Weeping, she looked back at the distressing scene.
For a moment, I was confused. My head reeled. Nachu had told me everything. Why was she acting this way when I told her what just happened? But then I understood. It was not the time to explain to her what I had witnessed. Nothing I could say right now would convince her otherwise. I had to let her be and let her believe as she chose. When the time was right, she would find her own peace in the future.
A friend once told me, “Death is hard. Even when you know someone you love is dying and will be leaving soon, and even if you have mentally prepared yourself for it, nothing can prepare you when it actually happens. It is a huge difference knowing that person was there one moment, and the next moment, he is gone forever.”
I stepped back and watched the undertakers wheel Nachu’s body out of the room.
Nachu died on Good Friday. What a day for this great soul to exit the Earth.
Nachu had revealed to me the whole scenario of his death. He allowed me to experience his soul, and showed me it was limitless, endless, timeless, and imperishable. Even after his soul had exited his body, he still communicated with me. I knew then that indeed death ends nothing. I took a deep breath and let go. And I thought, “Yes, Nachu, my darling baby, my beautiful son, one day, we shall meet again.”