The distinct ring of my mobile puzzled me because no one calls me at six in the morning. Seeing his name, I smiled.
"Back from the morning walk?"
"Well I was reading the day's devotional, its from John. 'For God so loved the World'. Have you read it?"
"Yes I did. I read it before I went for my walk."
"Well if 'God so loved the World,' how come he doesn't love me?"
Samuel Steven Sukumar, a good friend of mine, a retired Civil Servant and presently working as a consultant for UNICEF, has two children, eldest daughter Sarah and a son, Stephenson. Sarah is married to a cardiologist for the last twelve years and they have a nine year old son.
Stephenson, a software engineer, working in NXT Technologies, fell in love with Tanushree also a software engineer, and married her six months back.
Sam and his sister Leah were orphans and she took upon herself to educate him and had seen to it that he is well settled. Two years back, as Leah, after buying bread was crossing the road, when she was fatally hit by a motorbike.
Stephenson and Tanushree, were returning back after a weekend picnic with their friends, when the driver, seeing a water buffalo suddenly appear on the road, braked, somersaulting the vehicle and killing Stephenson on the spot.
Sam, hearing about his son being killed, was in the middle of his morning prayers when he phoned me, to ask 'if 'God so loved the World,' how come he doesn't love me?"
Within five months his daughter dead because of wrong drugs prescribed by her cardiologist husband. The police stepped in, as India's strict Anti dowry laws investigates any suspicious deaths. As a father of the girl, Sam vouched for the character of his son in law, and the police closed their investigation. But within a month, he came to know the real facts, that his son in law indeed wanted to get rid off his daughter. Heart broken, he realized the importance of the many desperate emails and phone calls Sarah made, telling him of her suspicions. But Sam never acted on it and like all good Indian fathers kept on saying that 'all will be well, have patience.'
I used to give Sam a number of books on daily devotions, because he had asked for some.
Three months later, on March 9, 2010 he phoned, "For God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Now I understand this verse. I am still praying. Praying for my near and dear ones, alive and dead and gone, because I recognize that when I pray I am calling upon the God Almighty and I have the breakthrough message for victory over unanswered prayers. I am a Christian and as a Christian I have faith, because without it I am not."
Pausing for a second, he continued, "Samuel Chadwick, a 19th century author and a pastor said, 'The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.'
There was no call the next day, but it did come a little late, at seven in the morning on March 11, 2010. "I find the lent season, spiritually very satisfying. In Luke 'Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.' What a beautiful verse. Just
imagine Jesus was on the cross and the second thief asked Jesus, 'Lord, remember me
when thou comest into thy kingdom.'"
And there was complete silence on the other end for sometime, and slowly Sam whispered, "'And Jesus Christ said, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.' What a wonderful thing to say and that too, to someone who was sentenced to die."
Sam sighed and continued, "Today I am going to the office at ten but will be back before
Lunch. Tomorrow is Sarah, my late daughter's birthday and I want to spend some time alone in prayer."
As there was complete silence, I was about to disconnect, when I heard his soft voice,
crystal clear, as he whispered, "To Day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
At half past twelve the same day, my mobile rang. Picking it up I was surprised that it
was Sam. He never called me in the middle of the day and perplexed I answered, "Sam."
"No this is not Sam, I am his friend. I have bad news to convey. Sam passed away at
eleven. His death was peaceful as though he was prepared for it. The funeral is at nine
tomorrow at St.James Cemetery."
The next day, as I approached the Cemetery, I was stunned to find a large number of people and thought that their may be more than one funeral service. But it was not. The crowd had come for Sam's funeral. Walking around the coffin I saw his face.It was very peaceful and calm, just like his friend who had told me, 'His death was peaceful as though he was prepared for it.'
After the funeral, as I was indulging in my favorite pastime of reading the different
epitaphs, a soft well modulated male voice from behind, spoke, "Life has memories. And when death occurs the person is remembered for what he had done with his life. It can be a simple as a smile, an endearing laughter or a good deed done. It may sound strange to use the word happy, but there was a kind of happiness in being here. I don't usually go to funerals as such, but coming here, I never knew until now, how important it was to go. Seeing the love and affection of so many people made my heart swell, that I am glad that I had come to see and feel that one person's death can move so many people to tears."
Nodding my head, I looked at him. His face was blurred. Puzzled, I rubbed my eyes and realized that my eyes were filled with tears. Looking at the stranger, I asked, "You know Him?"
"No, but I wish, I should have."
"Have you ever seen such a huge crowd? That shows he was loved by many. If so many loved him, just think how much God would have."
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.
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