Tuesday, December 27, 2011

5-Hour Existence

Raja died aged 5 hours old.

Raja had a fatal birth defect called anencephaly – which means he was born with much of his skull missing, and most of his brain exposed. His optical nerves failed to form normally, so he was totally blind. Anencephaly strikes 1 in 10000 babies. Raja happened to be that baby. He was not expected to live long –babies with anencephaly, after all, often die almost immediately after birth.

Raja’s mother knew about her baby’s condition 5 months into her pregnancy. Needless to say, it was devastating news. A typical expecting the birth of a child would spend the pregnancy preparing for the arrival of a brand new individual – their own flesh and blood. Raja’s family spent the pregnancy preparing for the death of the child. There would be no baby shower, only a funeral. Instead of preparing a crib, they prepared a coffin.

Raja’s 5-hour life was longer than anybody expected it to be. Some expected him to, quite literally, drop dead instantly after birth.  Yet he stayed around long enough to spend time with his extended family, who was all there. He spent his brief life close to his mother, a cap covering his vulnerable head.

The most touching part of the documentary was after Raja had died, and his diminutive body was being passed around the room, to be held by his family members. Watching the love in their eyes, love for a family member they would never watch grow up. Then he was lowered into his coffin, like any baby being put to sleep for his afternoon nap.

Watching this documentary on TV made hit me hard. I compared myself to Raja’s parents, his family. To Raja himself.

Am I as strong as Raja’s mother, who chose to carry her baby to term despite knowing about her child’s fatal birth defect?

Am I as supportive as Raja’s family, who dropped everything to travel from afar and comfort a loved one in need?

How many lives have I touched in my life…the way Raja has touched so many lives in 5 hours?

Do I value the gift of existence…a gift denied to Raja?

We always complain that 24 hours a day is not enough to do anything. Raja teaches us that you can do so much in just 5.

I admire Raja. He was blind, but he inspired others to see. He died young, but he inspired others to live. He did not leave any last words, but his message is priceless:

Thank God every day for the simple gift of existence.

Raja’s full story below: