When I entered the hospital room, she was lying on the bed, eyes closed, silently chanting the Vishnu Sahasranama. The elder daughter was seated on a chair, dutifully reading out the same to her from a book, while the younger daughter stood with a doting expression near her, trying to control her tears. Their father was sitting on the bystander’s bed, looking down intently at his feet, perhaps with ( I am sure) a million thoughts crossing his mind.

Hospitals were not new to this octogenarian and neither was her medical condition. Nearly two decades of being bedridden due to her illness had taken a huge toll on her body which was now reduced to mere skin and bones. A fighter to the core, she strongly and  cheerfully faced every predicament that life had to offer, and today, was getting ready for a surgical procedure which was the last resort to help prolong her years on Earth. I sat on the chair that was offered to me watching her, pity writ large in my mind.

As the chant came to an end, she opened her eyes and looked at me… and then something magical happened.  She smiled. It was not an ordinary smile. It was the beautiful smile of a toothless octogenarian which seemed to come straight from her heart. Like the innocent smile of a baby, it lighted up the whole of her withered face. Her smiling eyes shone, reflecting a kindness so powerful that it seemed to envelop her in a blissful glow.  There was no trace of any pain, misery or suffering that she had endured all these years. All that she exuded lying helplessly on that hospital bed was pure, beautiful, unconditional love that surpassed any other emotion in that room.

Unwittingly, she had taught me a huge, humbling lesson. I am sure that her heavenly smile will remain with me all my life.

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