Eyes on reasons to be thankfulWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
NEW DELHI — A woman died in a Calcutta hospital after ants ate one of her eyes as she was recovering from a cornea operation, media reports said Nov. 15.
Gauri Chakraborty, 55, had complained of terrible pain after the operation at a state-run hospital, but a nurse told her it was normal and left her unattended, her son Soumen told the Press Trust of India news agency.
He said that when her bandage was removed the next day they found big black ants nibbling at her eye, PTI reported.
”She died a ghastly death. We don’t even know the reason of her death,” Amitabha Kar, Chakraborty’s son-in-law, told PTI.
In this week of focus on giving thanks, this horrific story has rattled in my head like a slightly loose tooth, nagging and impossible to ignore. 2005 has delivered a body count to remember; cataclysmic tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes have danced across the world stage (kicking like a Rockette with their manmade partners, terrorism and war) with security-shaking regularity. The faceless thousands who perished under Mother Nature’s busy thumb touch us in a vague way, but a story such as Gauri Chakraborty’s breaks through the static of jaded sympathy and hits home like an ice pick sliding between ribs.
I have no idea what kind of life Gauri led, but I doubt she did anything to deserve what happened to her as she lay in her hospital bed, her pleas for help ignored.
I do not want to dwell on the story and its gruesome images. I want to pull up a seat in front of a golden brown turkey, hold my wife and brother’s hands as we say grace, and enjoy the holiday I’ve earned after a very busy year. I want to think about Christmas, shop for gifts, listen to holiday music and be a good American consumer. I want to catch up with Rudolph, Frosty, The Grinch, all of my Yuletide pals.
I’ve donated to the Red Cross and Toys for Tots. I gave a summer’s worth of recyclables to our local high school fund-raising effort. I’ve become a mentor to a young man in a local high school.
I’m a few light-years shy of sainthood, but my family and I try to give back to our community, family and friends, to keep perspective on the myriad blessings we enjoy.
It may not be admirable, but I will admit to using my philanthropy as a soft shield around my self-indulgence. I can enjoy the bounty I’ve earned, revel in it no matter how foolishly, if I give back enough to feel like I’m keeping the karma balance sheet in check.
I squander, therefore I am.
But it’s a thin bubble, this layer of charity, and the right thought hitting it at the right angle can pop it in a spray of guilt, disillusion and magnified empathy.
Gauri’s story repulsed me when I read it. But she has haunted me for a week, as my core humanity aches and cries out to her spirit.
Death is non-negotiable. We all drink from that glass. Senseless death is harder to swallow. A death such as that rendered unto Gauri is worse than bitter poison; it is swallowing the poison and the shards of glass from the smashed chalice.
I’m exposing more of my shallow nature than I’d like to, but I openly admit that stories like this hit me harder when I am more focused on my own comfortable station in life. Thanksgiving is also my birthday, so I’m hyper-aware of the warm and coddled life I live. No man is as undeservedly blessed with love, friends, family and success as I am. I’m aware of that in a fuzzy, unfocused way most of the time; during the Thanksgiving to Christmas corridor, I am keenly aware of my good fortune, and my thankfulness fills me 10 times more than my being can hold.
Gauri’s horror will fade in time, as all the other horrors before have done.
But my thankfulness, and my acknowledgement of my wealth of blessings, will retain this sharper focus, forever and ever, amen.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. He may be contacted at (419) 241-1700 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.