With his fingertips he tenderly stroked the scar on my thigh, his face contorted as in pain, "It must have hurt you terribly?"
I described the shelling of our defence positions to him, the whistle of the approaching mortars, seconds of expectation, the explosions that turned everything upside down. I told him how horrible it sounds to hear one's own friends screaming in desperation after they had been hit, how it feels to try in vain to stop blood gushing from a wound so big that you can put a whole hand over it. I described the pain I felt when sharp metal bits pierced my body and tore its tissue apart. I did not want to upset the old man too much and avoided the sordid details, which could upset his stomach.
I told him about my operation, which the doctors had performed without any anaesthetic, using a bottle of slivovitz as the only available painkiller.
He winced and groaned after every sentence and at the end he patted me friendlily on my shoulder saying, "I had been watching the TV news and whenever I saw pictures from your homeland tears came in my eyes."
Then he told me of his own pain, and of his illness. The doctors had discovered a dangerous tumour in his brain. For the first time in his life he feared death. Never before had such a thought occurred to him that one day his body would stop functioning and that that would be the end.
"Lucky are those who believe in God," I said, "they know what is going to happen to them, but where is my place?"
The concept of God as the creator of the Universe and human beings was so strange to him. Ever since he was a child, he had been living in the present, avoiding to think of any bad moments in the past or what the future would bring. But, now, the doctors having explained to him all the risks and the not so bright prognosis for his survival, the fear of the unknown would not leave him alone.
I told him that God took care of everyone, even of those who sin or did not believe in him. God is compassionate and can forgive every person, if that person so chooses to be forgiven.
But my words had not consoled him, and he almost started to tremble of fear. "I see just an endless, cold and dark void where there is absolutely nothing and that thought sends shivers down my spine." I asked him if there was anything which gave him hope and cast light on his darkness and he told me that it was his two children. He was so proud of them. His son and daughter had succeeded in life and had very good jobs. They were his treasure and his only consolation. He had been expecting them to visit soon.
Student or Learner