To Suffer

Tessho had prepared himself for the sight but he still blanched. Embarrassment followed and he felt has cheeks begin to burn. This was his father, he should not be afraid of the man. Still, there in the sparsely decorated room, he had difficulty looking at his dying parent. The air was cool; that was how the druid nurses liked their infirmaries. The age of decadence had been left behind and austerity ruled.

Tessho pulled the high-backed wooden chair closer to the bed. With one hand he reached out to touch the dying man on the shoulder.

“Dad? Can you hear me?”

There was a croak, a rasping sound that made the younger man shiver.

Shuichi turned his head towards his son. “I do not have much time left in the world.” He paused to gather strength and breath. “I can feel my Lord calling to me. The sound of his Heavenly host rings in my ears.”

For a moment Tessho was stunned by the sight of the old man’s face. Only sixty but already his skin hung tight across protruding bones. They had not met for over two years, Tessho having been away on business. The phone calls gave some indication as to his father’s failing health but in the last months the deterioration had come swiftly.

Reveil, the trance drug, worked that way; you could take it for years without it having any adverse effect on the body and then, often without warning, it began to eat away from the inside. Shuichi displayed all the signs of a life spent trying to touch God. The top of his nose had collapsed, the cartilage hanging lose within the bag of skin. Cheekbones had also fallen away where the structure had softened. Small dimples in the skin showed where it had given way completely. The blankets sunk low, the old man’s ribs having become malleable and unable to support even such a small weight. Only the mound of his swollen stomach pushed the covers upward. Tessho made sure he did not apply any pressure to his father’s hand.

He offered what words of comfort he could. “Soon they will come to carry you away, I am sure of it.”

His father croaked in agreement and then caught a glimpse of the sorrow in Tessho’s eyes.

“Do not weep for me, my son. I have lived a happy life and achieved all that I wanted to.” He shifted under the covers, the movement causing pain to ripple across his face.

“It is the drug that has killed you not old age.” Tessho could not stop the words from bursting out of his mouth.

For a moment there was silence, then his father found his voice; soft and filled with love. “Do not have such hate for that which brings us closer to God. How else could I reach the state needed to touch the Almighty? We would all be much less than God wanted us to be if we could not hear his words.”

The blossoming anger took hold of Tessho, pushing out the grief. “But look at you! Each injection has eaten a little further into your body. I can barely touch you now for fear of hastening your death.”

“You know as well as I that death comes to us all. We are dying from the day that we are born. A few years less of my life, when each day is filled with the love of God, is not a life wasted. To never know he was there, that would be much more of a loss.”

Tessho backed away from the argument, not wanting to cause anymore pain in a moment filled with grief. “I am sorry father, the thought of you passing on is making me foolish. I meant no offense.”

The old man gave a small shake of his head. “You gave me none. I am glad you are here. To see you one last time fills my heart with joy.” He began to cough, a raking sound that rattled through his body. Limbs jerked like a puppet whose strings were being given vicious tugs.

There was nothing Tessho could do, and that hurt him all the more.

As the fit subsided the dying man looked up at his son. His eyes appealed for help, seeming to ask for a relief from the pain, then the coughing started again. Tessho leaned in close trying to give support. He closed his eyes and offered a prayer that it would all end soon.

Suddenly the room went quiet. Tessho looked down to see the still form of his father lying on the bed. After a moment the tears began to flow. He only managed to rein them in when a druid nurse entered the room. She rested a hand on his shoulder, covered the face of the corpse and offered prayers. When she was done she helped Tessho from the room and into the small adjoining chapel. Michie, Tessho’s wife, was waiting, her head bent low where she sat in one of the pews. Her warm hands held him tight, soaking up the pain as she led him down the narrow central iles to where they could kneel in front of the stone alter.

From the back of the room a priest entered. The woman, dressed in the long black and white robes of her order, carried a silver tray before her. She walked to the grieving couple and bent down next to them. Tessho glanced at the tray, his heart sank at the sight of the two small syringes, then, without thinking the action through, he began to roll up his sleeve.

—————

18 December 2009
Another Japanese policemen has died due to excessive drinking in what is commonly known as Kampi; effectively a social pressure where both sides of a meeting feel they need to get drunk.

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