So, with Francesca's constant support, Sergio
packed his bags, said goodbye to friends and relatives
and locked the door to their apartment behind
him for the last time. He walked on crutches,
dragging one heavily bandaged leg behind him but
jubilant to be on his way to the Himalaya and
the holy river Ganga.
They did reach Delhi. Sergio was exhausted and
so they rested there for 2 days and then continued
to Haridwar. The first thing Sergio did on reaching
the temple, where they were to stay, was to climb
slowly down the stairs to the ghat and make a
full length pranam (prostration) to Ganga Ma.
Tears of love and gratitude streamed down his
face. He and Francesca rested for 2 more days
taking short walks in the Bazaar and sitting watching
the Ganga. The next day they were in their way
again to the little Himalayan ashram on the bank
of the mountain Ganga. Reaching the Ashram Sergio
headed straight over the rocks to Ganga Ma. Heedless
of his crutches and weakness, he hobbled to the
water and lay on the edge with his forehead touching
the cool, blue water. Again his tears flowed and
he was overcome with joy.
Exhaustion brought on a fever for a few days,
after which Sergio recovered and began to live
his life to the full. Wandering among the flowers
in the garden he grew stronger. He enjoyed everything.
Each new day was a gift, he said. Every morning
he went slowly down the steps to the beach and
washed in Gang Ma. He offered incense to Ganga
Ma and sat for hours watching her waves and the
surrounding mountains. He sat in the garden and
read the scriptures. He joined in discussions
about deep spiritual truths with the other ashram
members. He played too, sometimes with a stray
dog, which he adopted and sometimes by narrating
amusing stories that had everyone in fits of laughter.
He liked to cook and eat all sorts of interesting
Italian dishes with Francesca. He planted some
tomato plants and, carrying small amounts of water
in a bucket, tended them and watched them grow,
flower and eventually give fruits. It wasn't all
There were physical, emotional and spiritual problems
too but he faced them all with clarity and astounding
bravery. From time to time the people in the ashram
phoned Dr. Dewan and he advised simple homely
ways of making Sergio physically more comfortable.
For 2 months Sergio grew stronger, then there
was a plateau, then slowly, slowly he grew thinner
and weaker. Even so he carried on his activities
as much as he was able. He never failed to go
down to Ganga Ma each day, even when it meant
he had to hold on to the wall and go very, very
Francesca kept her tears to moments on her own
or with her friends. For Sergio she was always
radiant, beautiful, loving and supportive.
Sergio gradually became quieter. He said the many
issues of life about which he had always had such
strong opinions 'are not really important any
more'. He spent hours sitting quietly gazing at
Ganga or into space. His face became serene and
radiant. He said he was at peace, living each
new day with wonder and contentment.
Three weeks before the end they decided to go
to Benares where they had stayed in the past and
where it is believed that all who die within the
city's boundary's achieve liberation. Miraculously
he did survive the journey and spent the last
2 weeks listening to the sound of arti and kirtan(worship
and singing) coming from the many temples, going
down to the ghat every day to make his pranam
to Ganga Ma and to watch the colourful bustle
of pilgrims. Day by day he leaned more heavily
on Francesca until a friend was also needed to
help to support him as he walked.
Soon one side of his body became paralyzed and
he was no longer able to go down to Ganga Ma.
After a moment of disappointment, he didn't seem
to mind and was at peace. He said that now he
had everything he wanted.
After three days he left his body in Francesca's
arms. As he had requested her to do, she refused
to have him taken to hospital and he died next
to Ganga Ma, in a little house on Tulsi Ghat.
He was 52 years old. Sergio was cremated in Harischandra
Ghat where Francesca lit the pyre. She remained
in Benares thirteen more days and then did all
the traditional pujas (worship) for him including
the Kashi puja of Liberation.
Cancer patients and their loved ones are invited
to write to us about their views, thoughts and
feelings. We will include as many letters, articles
and stories as is possible in these web pages.
Please send your article to Nani Ma: email@example.com