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I have come to help you die.

By. Chacko Thomas

It was with great sadness that we laid to rest the body of our 17-year-old son, Sunil, at Beckenham Cemetery in London, England. He had been fighting a cancer called Hodgkin’s lymphoma for over two years. We were thankful for each day he was alive, especially when we saw that we were fighting a losing battle. Sunil has successfully beaten his parents and his older sister to the finish line. He was promoted to glory on the 7th of March 2003.

Literally, thousands of people all over the world prayed fervently for his healing.  I do not know anyone else for whom so much prayer and even fasting has gone up.  Surely, the Lord would heal him? There were some “prophecies” and even “dreams” shared with us to that effect. But it was not what happened. I even wondered if I had failed the Lord to do His “will” in miraculous healing, through my sins or unbelief.

The main answer to prayer was that Sunil’s own faith and ours remained strong to the end, even though it was severely challenged. Though the Lord refused to heal him He poured out His grace, which was more than sufficient for us. God also richly made provision for many of Sunil’s wishes to be fulfilled.  His cherished wish to see his grandmother in Singapore was arranged soon after the doctors in the Teenage Cancer Unit in London told us that there was nothing more to be done medically. He spent the next two months with her and took in the sights and tastes of Singapore in spite of being wheel chair bound. The events he enjoyed most were the two visits to the Night Safari Park, Christmas and New Year with our church, and the Chinese New Year celebrations in China Town.

Halfway through the visit we learned from the Singapore doctors that Sunil might not have more than four months left. Soon after that he insisted that he want to return to his home and friends in London. This was made possible through the generosity of many good friends. One particular Christian family in London put themselves at his service. Among other things they drove him around the country, to the London Aquarium, the Marwell Animal Park and the Birds of Prey Sanctuary, fulfilling a longing he’d had for four years.

We had no plans for the day after the visit to the sanctuary. We’d been out the whole day, a round trip of 240 miles, and were all tired. But just to give Sunil something to look forward to I promised a ride in the car as I was leaving for the office at 7.00am. When I returned home at 11.30am he had already gotten his mother to arrange a visit to his school at 2.30pm, 30 minutes before it closed. I will not take time here to explain what a marvellous reception he had at the school from teachers and staff.

Little did we realise that this was going to be the final day of Sunil’s life. We knew that he was weak and his breathing was laboured. When we got home the hospice nurse was waiting for us and soon there was visit from the local doctor. After examining Sunil she told us he was doing very poorly, and advised us to send for his sister, Sheela, who was attending a counselling course about two hours away.  That night at 9.54pm, 30 minutes after Sheela arrived, Sunil entered the Lord’s presence as we prayed together. The next few days were unbearable. We could not control our tears, for we have never loved anyone more deeply than we loved Sunil.

Our hope for miraculous healing was shattered. Many had encouraged us to keep believing and praying for a miracle. I had seen many Scripture portions during those many months which I thought were pointing towards God’s miraculous intervention. We were half expecting it up till the last minute, even while seeing his condition worsen month by month.

“We prepare our children for a long life”, implying not for death, wrote a mother in an account of her teenage son’s promotion to glory.  A question that came often to my mind was “how I could have better prepared my son for death”.  How does a father, who wants his seventeen-year-old son to outlive him, tell him that he may not recover and that he must be prepared to die? In my role as a father I tried to give Sunil hope and courage, though I will not take credit for the strength he showed in death. But should we not do more, especially parents, pastors and fellow-believers?

I remember our pastor in Singapore coming to me after a service and saying that he had chosen a particular song with Sunil in mind.

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