On Friday we handed the lives of Rumi and Reshma over to Hope Foundation. It's a strange place I am finding myself in. To see the faces of those I have grown to love be taken into the arms of a strangers. And for no reason should I be experiencing grief after only knowing them for such a short time. Yet, I am not sure what else I would name all that I am experiencing since my arms parted their skin.
I have worked with adults and adolescents alike. I have grieved for lives lost to alcohol, drugs, abuse, etc. I have witnessed distress, depression, hopelessness, despair. Even here, at the Ashram, the experience of loss is a daily encounter I have learned over the years to embrace with celebration, peace, and rest. I have worked diligently not to attach myself to those I serve, which I have come to recognize as a gift as well as a fault. Yet, I have never had to work through the loss of children. Children engulfed in grief, deprivation, starvation, lack of attention as well as healthy stimulation. Children, whose bodies feel like silk but speak helplessness. Children whose faces shine with natural beauty but demonstrate negligence. This weekend I grieved for the touch of silk, the natural beauty of their eyes and lips.
Yet, during such a time as this I have found peace and healing like I would have never anticipated receiving. Peace in the hope which lies in the tough callous hands of old junkies who work together in communion, peeling pea pods for tonight's supper (P.S. The man on the far right with the blue pants, his feet are ticklish).
I find hope in the future of those who were once hopeless, like Renu & Ramesh. After over eight months of TB treatment at the Ashram, left last week to start their life together down south, both rehabilitated of the disease which once threatened to take their lives, TB.
I find joy in the daily jabs and jostles that occur between staff and patients alike. Playing, I have found, has become a lost art. A lost art often rediscovered and practiced here on a moment by moment basis.
I find laughter in the hugeness of these carrots and the little teeth and hands which work diligently to demolish them. Murari (on the left) has been here for the last year and a half, after being rescued from the road-side. He has acute juveinle onset arthritis and is quite an instigator but is also locally known as the boy who can get anything out of anyone. Kamal has been here for a number of years. Found abandoned, he has made himself a staple at the Kid's House and is quite sneaky is getting a couple other kids to do his daily homework... such beloved stinkers.
Forgive me for being so horrible at remembering names, it's a gift I really hope I am anointed with someday, but... the man on the left I call Mr. 20kg, because that is what he weighed upon arrival at the Ashram. His body taken captive by TB, for the first two+ weeks he would simply lie in bed, laboring for each breath. At that time we worked out a deal through broken language and began a cookie/sandwich black market between the both of us. His weight is increasing ever slowly and the last four days he has been independently sitting up and walking around the Ashram with only the help of a walker.
The boy of the right, Ramier (I think, I hope) came to us with his father two mornings ago. Him and his dad had traveled four days to come to the Ashram after his father had fallen into a camp fire during a seizure. Covered with 3rd degree burns on his chest, arms, hands, and face this beautiful dirty boy checks on his dad frequently; helping his dad go to the bathroom and when others aren't looking, helping him smoke bidi's...
I can't imagine a place better than this to grieve. Surrounded by hope, love, laughter, peace, resiliance, joy, and amazingly huge carrots for healthy teeth.