Faith healing

My father’s heart attack was serious enough for him to be hospitalised. But when it was known he was in the hospital, many relatives and friends started to come to his room. He enjoyed the visits and spoke to all the visitors, but later in the evening he started having chest pain. His doctor was alarmed and put up a ‘no visitors allowed’ board outside the door. The next day his condition deteriorated and the doctor was very concerned when the tips of his fingers turned blue indicating poor blood circulation. That night was tense.

Towards mid-night, through sheer exhaustion my mother drifted off into an uneasy sleep. I was sitting nearby. He called me and he smiled and patted the bed and asked me to sit near him. I did that and then he said something which surprised me. He asked me to repeat two words ‘élan vital’. Philosophy was his passion, and Henri Bergson was his favourite philosopher. There was always a book of Bergson’s on his reading table
Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was a famous French philosopher whose concept of elan vital, living energy and life force which permeate the whole world  was dear to my father.

He had often talked of this concept to us and so those two words were familiar to us. On that day instead of the conventional Hindu divine names he wanted these two words to be repeated. I held his hand and repeated those two names, I do not know how long I sat there repeating ‘élan vital’ till he fell into a deep sleep. It was a beautiful experience.

The quietness of the night and the soft repetition of those two words, again and again. The next morning he woke up refreshed and the blue tinge on the tips of the fingers had gone. The doctor was also pleasantly surprised and took advantage of the situation to put him into a sedated state for the next week with nasal feeding. This gave him complete rest.

A few days later the doctor started reducing the sedation till one day my father opened his eyes and noticing the nasal tube he pulled it out. After that there was no looking back. His progress was steady and satisfying. Within a few weeks he was well and strong enough to go home. We had several more happy years with him.

Besides that strange and beautiful experience I learnt a valuable lesson from that episode. It was that it is not the words we say as prayers that are important, but the fervour and faith we feel when we say them. That is what makes them powerful. Now, remembering my father, I often say those words with faith and love and great gratitude to Bergson who conceptualised them.

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