Prior to Shardul's fourth open-heart surgery in Auckland, we were sitting in his hospital room waiting for the pre-surgery procedures to begin.
First up was a legal waiver form to be signed, and when the surgeon asked if we clearly understood the nature of the operation we pretended we thought it was a kidney operation! Shardul said, "You're going to open up the abdominal area and remove my left kidney and inspect the other kidney for damage as well, right?"
The surgeon went pale before our eyes and gaped at us in astonishment. Eventually we started to laugh and she realised we were joking, clucking at us in mock disapproval.
Shardul looked ridiculously like a plucked chicken in a bathrobe and every time I looked at him I started laughing. He had been shaven for the operation and wore a white surgical gown and a frilly plastic floral cap over his head, vaguely resembling a female impersonator who had been run over by a car.
Once on a pre-surgical anaesthetic he started to slur his words as well when he spoke and we started giggling like a couple of schoolboys at the ridiculous things he was saying and the comedy of his appearance. Then they wheeled him off and I thought, 'My God, we may never see him again.' I realised then what good friends we were though I knew as well he would be OK because of his connection with Sri Chinmoy.
Later I went back to the hospital to check up on him after surgery – he looked ashen and terrible as he slowly fought his way back from the huge trauma of a four hour long operation. Then I understood what a miracle and what a resurrection it really was.
During the post-op stage we sprinkled copies of Sri Chinmoy's The Wings of Joy among the medical staff and nurses, and even ran into former Prime Minister David Lange, also in the cardiac unit for some running repairs to his heart. He had endeared himself to us years earlier when, during a chance encounter in 1995, he perfectly recalled the song Sri Chinmoycomposed and performed for him during their meeting in 1987, and sang it to us word perfectly.
Sitting in the hospital room by the window one afternoon I wrote Shardul a poem and put it by his bed as he slept. Somehow it disappeared, probably thrown out by the cleaners, but I recall it close enough to recapture.
Here, calm nurses reign
and sagacious doctors, majestic in white
confer and scurry about.
Green lines track and blip across the screens
that measure breath, groans, heartbeat,
evidence of this, your latest resurrection.
Outside, a pastoral scene
meadows bursting upwards
jubilant with spring, seed-heavy,
fragrant with a million
scarlet flowers, haven of finches
and twittering, earth-bound things.
Your own sap blooms
through scars and crimson bandages
and leaking rivulets, missed by errant nurses.
A clock ticks softly
reminding us what’s left
and other certainties of time
that all must pass this way and be bereft.
Beyond the window other lives
unfold in play
and idle cattle stand
then nomad clouds, a caravanserai
in convoy voyage aimlessly across indifferent sky.
The white sheet immaculate
hides your grief and wounds.
A pulse flutters briefly in your neck
a trapped insect trying to get out.
You lie, waiting
inert upon the bed,
pale Lazarus, companion-friend,
returning from the dead.