by Kelsi Holmes, volunteer in Chengalpet
“When we arrived at the room of Pathamma, we were seized with pity for this woman who had long since been abandoned by her family because of her illness. She had not moved in some time and was lying in days worth of her own waste. Near her head sat a bowl of untouched food. The hum of flies surrounding her unmoving form was audible. There were ants in her mouth. No one cared for her. No one loved her. This human being, this soul, this supreme creation of God was left alone to wallow in the degradation that had befallen her and not a single person cared. Filled with the compassion of Christ, we boldly proclaimed: “We will care for you. We will love you. And if you have no one else in the world… you have us.”
We had next to nothing in the way of supplies but made do with what was available to us. We asked her neighbors to lend a few things. None of them were very fond of her so it wasn’t easy but we managed to scrounge up what we needed and then got to work. We washed her saree, cleaned her room, and then came the hard part…bathing Pathamma.
While we were bathing her, she reached up and began to wash her own face and at that moment, she gave us smile as bright as the sun. Then, just before we left, she clasped her hands in front of her face in a silent gesture of gratitude. Those two actions, as small as they may seem, meant more to me than a thousand thank you’s.
We told Pathamma that we would return but that was the last time we saw her alive. She died just a few days later, alone. After the funeral, one man approached us and thanked us for the work we had done for her. He said that after we helped her, other people took notice and started to do little things for her also. In saying this, he showed us something that we very rarely, if ever, get to see. He showed us the fruits of our mission. Not only had we brought compassion to this poor woman but it touched those around her also. I feel in some way that by providing me with the opportunity to see this grace, Pathamma gave me a much greater gift than I ever could have given her.”