‘This is a sweeter place to enter than many mansions’

‘As we approached the planks of asbestos and thin green plastic sheet that Rinabai called home, she greeted us with an embarrassed smile: ‘I am sorry there is no clean place for you to sit. We have only one chair.’ I settled next to her on the bed and told her that it was a sweeter place to enter than many mansions because God thought so, and God was near.

I first met Rinabai when she arrived at the hospital asking for medicine to relieve discomfort in her chest. After removing multiple dirty coverings, we were shocked to find a horrifying wound which indicated late-stage, untreated cancer.

Over the next few days, Rinabai received expert care and escalating pain relief. Her relatives were carefully shown how to care for her, how to titrate her morphine and dress her wound. She told us how she had kept her disease to herself as her family struggled to survive in the pandemic. Only when the pain was very troublesome and the odour hard to hide did she ask to be brought to hospital.

Once home, the palliative homecare team visited her frequently. ‘I have been dressing her wound daily, just like you taught me,’ Rinabai’s daughter-in-law told me, ‘She talks about you all so much and really looks forward to your visits.’ The tumour and swelling had worsened but Rinabai was now calm and pain-free.

We sang a song of hope and prayed for her, as we did on every visit until the day she died peacefully, her dignity and value deeply affirmed.’ (Dr Ashita Singh)

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