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Amy Carmichael :: Ponnamal—Chapter XIV: Her Pain

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It was Friday, March 28, of the following year, another of those dates that can never be forgotten. Ponnamal had been ailing for some weeks, but no premonition of serious trouble disturbed us; our chief anxiety was a sick baby. In the intervals of life I was trying to get 'Walker of Tinnevelly' written, and one day, that day, into the middle of it plunged an excited messenger: 'Ponnamal has a bad pairs, it has seized her suddenly! Can you come?' Before the end of the description of that pain was in sight, I was with Ponnamal.

There is so much suffering and sorrow in the world just now that I think hearts must be too sore to bear needless medical detail, so two years and five months shall go into a paragraph.

It was cancer; an operation stayed matters for a while. There were, however, complications which detained us in hospital for three months. We returned home thankful and hopeful. But Ponnamal soon began to suffer more. Treatment, operative and other, failed to do more than give temporary ease. So matters continued till October 5, 1914, when we were told cancer had returned and that nothing could be done. In one way it was a relief to know that the misery of more operations was to be spared her. But she suffered, with only occasional respite, till August 26, 1915, when she was released from the body of this death.

And now memories crowd upon me: which shall I take and show?

A room with a bed in it, and beside the bed a table with a shaded lantern on it. Ponnamal lies on the bed breathing so quietly that in the dim light I can hardly see if the sheet moves with her breath. It is the first night after her operation, and she is half unconscious yet. Suddenly into the stillness of the night, startling one with the weirdness of it, pours forth a torrent of prayer-prayer for the doctors who had tried to help her; for me-and the utter love in the words brings the tears stinging into my eyes for the children, her little beloveds; name after name pours out, as child after child comes up in her faithful memory. At last she stops, exhausted; her pulse seems to me in my terrible anxiety to fail. Should I call the doctor, who had told me to call him if there were any change? But he is tired after a long day's work, and I think longingly of our one trained nurse at home on furlough who would give all she possessed to be here now; and so the hours pass till the welcome morning dawns, and with it hope.

Weeks have passed since that night. Ponnamal is facing another operation, calm and quiet; but within is a very disappointed heart. The post has brought a letter from Dohnavur, and we are reading it together. It is from Arulai, fragile in body, and even then on the edge of illness, but triumphant in spirit. She is in charge at Dohnavur, helped by all who are there, but still the one upon whom the heaviest burden falls. She has been counting, not in days, but in hours and in minutes to the time of our return. This new trouble has moved it, who can tell how far off? This is what she writes: 'Are you tasting the sweetness of this time? I am.' And light comes back to Ponnamal. She too 'tastes the sweetness of the time.'

And now bright, golden memory; a bullock‐cart, moving slowly round the mountains' foot; and in the cart Ponnamal, looking out with rejoicing eyes. 'I never expected to see them again,' she says, as she watches the hills soften and darken against a yellow sky; and she tells me how on that last day at Dohnavur she had balanced her accounts so as to leave all straight for me. And as she talks, my heart shakes with mighty throbs of thankfulness that I have her warm and living beside me.

I see a compound now in the early joyful morning, freshened by the first June rains, its greens and terra‐cottas mingling happily, its calm encircling hills half asleep in sleepy mists. Then there is a shout and a rush; everywhere little blue figures are dancing about us, and the air is full of laughter; and Ponnamal is, lifted out of the cart and carried in; and there are palms up everywhere, and flowers.

And again, a great waste field; but even as I look at it, it grows into an ordered garden with rows of plantains-banana is the word that gives the sense of 'the undulating green which is its glory. And up and down among the plants Ponnamal is walking, still unsteadily, but rejoicing to be walking at all. A tent is pitched near the well where a pair of bullocks draw water for the field; the splash of the falling water fills the picture with a sense of coolness. Soon Ponnamal, wearied but happy, walks slowly to the tent and rests.

It was a constant joy to us so to see her in this garden of her own creation, blessed help through the days when her heart would not let her be without doing something for the general good, but her head could not bear the noise and movement of the nursery. Ponnamal's garden, it will always be called; it is in fruit now, and we wonder if she sees, and is pleased.

And for last-late Christmas Eve: the nursery with its whitewashed walls and red‐tiled floor; a lamp is burning low; a sick child gazing far away with that aloof look in her eyes that says, 'I belong to another country.' And watching her, with arms that ache to take her and nurse her back to life, Ponnamal. For she has crawled up to the nursery, constrained thither by the love in her; and now exhausted by the effort, but serene in the victory of her spirit over the oppressive and reluctant flesh, she sits stifling the groan that breaks from her-type, though she little dreams it, of that which lights the ages as star‐shine a black night: the imperishable quality of Love.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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