We lost two today.
Life here follows typical cyclical paths. We follow the rising and setting of the sun. Especially here it dictates our moves. In the winter we are frozen without its warmth, and we walk about from patch of sun to patch of sun to stay comfortable. In the summer you do everything you can to avoid the sun, walking to and from patches of shade to go about your day. Eating, sleeping, sickness and health, they all travel in cycles and intervals.
If we can back up and look a bit more macroscopically; life and death are each of our great cycles. Today two of our patients, two friends and community members ended this side of their life cycle, and entered into something new.
But first, life.
Mukesh and Rasheed here have been long-time members of the population here at Sewa Ashram. Both were found on the streets, pulled from some unimaginable circumstances, and placed in the arms of love here. Mukesh (read more by clicking here) was abused by the men on the street, he was an IV drug user and lived under a bridge. Rescued, loved, and now thriving, Mukesh makes up half of the amazing creative team that fills the walls of the ashram with paintings. (To see Mukesh's painting gallery, click here.)
Rasheed is one of the people I spend the most time with here. He is quirky, funny, a prankster, extraordinarily intelligent, and talented in ways I did not know were possible. His hips and arms are at 90 degrees from the "normal" orientation, so his mobility and dexterity are about 90 degrees from "normal", too. He is just someone you have to see to believe. He too was rescued from the streets and now spends his time adorning the halls of the ashram with laughter.
Javed is the other half of the creative design team here. Told by the leader here to start painting, he replied "but I have never painted before." Well, that changed pretty quickly, and his paintings now number somewhere near 100 and are in every building on the compound. Many of the visitors to the ashram end up leaving with one of his paintings packed away in their suitcase. See his gallery here.)
There is not a whole lot I can say after a photo like that. This guy is just funny and happy all the time. I am not sure of the story behind the neck brace, but he seems to really like wearing it. He is one of the people here who probably hold everything together, without us ever knowing it. He works all the time; cleaning floors, taking out garbage, feeding people, talking to people, doing laundry, drawing, and making fun of people.
On one side of the compound there used to be a nice little building where the "boys", those who have been here a long time and do most of the work, would meet every morning for meditation. Most of that building fell down, but the foundation still stands, and the little shrine set up to Jesus still stands. Jessica took this picture of one of our favorite guys here (truthfully, most of them are our favorites) stopping to give a little devotion before the shrine. It was just a beautiful little scene, and Jess captured the moment perfectly.
Though life is first, at the end we still come to death.
And many times here, death is exceedingly beautiful. Those who have had a long time to accept their fate eventually do so and go ever so peacefully across that divide. Some, right at the end, simply stop taking food and decide to walk willingly toward the new side of the cycle. Many times with long-term tuberculosis, at the very end, the skin pulls very tight across the face, showing off all of the curvatures of the face bones, and they become absolutely beautiful.
One of those that died today was a Muslim, so he will be taken to some Muslims that we know who give proper burials to those of their religion. This man in the photo, well, we don't know how to label within a religion, so we do with him what we do with all of our dead. We give them over to God and we follow Indian customs. All of the dead in India are cremated.
His ashes will return to the earth. The cycle will continue. Life, death, life.
Jake and Jess