I will always remember the man who died in Bed Number 30 on January 23, 2009 at Kalighat, Mother Teresa’s hospice for the poor. When I arrived to serve at Kalighat that afternoon, one of the nuns told me about the man in Bed Number 30. Someone had found him in a hole and carried him to Kalighat. The man had suffered some kind of terrible physical trauma. His body was broken and he was barely conscious. Three women sat at his bedside all afternoon and ministered to him. Late in the afternoon, as they softly sang “Amazing Grace” to him, the man died. The Missionaries of Charity never knew his name or where he was from or if he had any family. One of the nuns told me that she was thankful that this man was able to die with dignity at Kalighat and not alone on the streets. Mother Teresa once said that she wanted for “people who had lived like animals to die like angels — loved and wanted.”
As we were getting ready to leave Prem Dan this morning, I noticed that Devon, one of the girls on our team, was weeping in the courtyard. When I asked her what had happened she told me that one of the women at Prem Dan had just died. Several of our girls witnessed this woman’s death. I later learned that Kay and Lisa, two of our adult sponsors, had sat with this woman in the final hours of her life. And, as they sang to her, the woman drew her final breath. When she died, the girls noticed that the mute woman in the adjacent bed was weeping. She too had witnessed the death of the woman who had occupied the bed next to her own. Although this was a difficult thing for our girls to experience, I am so proud of them for never leaving the dying woman’s side and for helping her to die with dignity. That’s what Mother Teresa would have wanted. She would be pleased to know that the volunteers who come to Kolkata to serve in her homes continue to help the least of these to die with dignity and respect.
This afternoon, we took the guys on our team to meet my friend Navin, a soft-spoken man who runs a ministry that rescues at-risk kids. He is a great example of the power of one, or in this case the power of two since Navin’s wife is also involved in this ministry. Years ago, Navin and his wife stepped out in faith to start a ministry to rescue kids from Kolkata’s rail yards and rehabilitate them. Our guys had the opportunity to hear the personal stories of three of the boys under Navin’s care. Amazing does not begin to describe what has happened in the lives of these kids since coming to live under the care of Navin and his wife. They are a great reminder of what it means to go beyond — to step across the line that defines the most we’ve ever done for God and His purposes. Navin and his wife have given up a lot of things in order to do what they do. But they have also gained some things that are beyond value. My friend Ashok Andrews, the pastor of Kolkata Christian Fellowship, sums it up best: “My life is a single candle. I therefore prefer to burn it in a place filled with darkness than in a place flooded with light.” Navin and Matilda are indeed lighting up some of Kolkata’s darkest places.