Dating : The Last Priest in Town

h2>Dating : The Last Priest in Town

Vineet Sharma

“I’ll be there in 10 minutes”, said Father James. This was the third time in a week that he was asked for at the hospital.

She was an old lady. Her body looked like a shriveled raisin. They had put tubes into her. Her mouth was covered with an oxygen mask. Father James saw her closed eyes behind the face shield. He knew it was time. He reached for the bible in his pocket. “I am now going to pray for you”, he said and started reading. The ventilator beeped behind his soft voice.

It was almost two months since the pandemic had hit the town. Thousands were infected. Hundreds breathed their last. Each day the bells in the church rang out at 4 pm paying homage to the deceased.

Father James lost two of his fellow priests to the virus. Together they managed the church, the daily funeral services and helped the dying in the hospital. Now, everything fell on his shoulders.

He spent the day administering the last rites. He saw a teenage girl, a man in his mid-thirties, a young woman in her twenties. There were no family members to hold hands with. He was not allowed to sprinkle the holy water or use the holy oil. Standing six feet away from the bedside he read the scriptures hoping his presence delivered some peace to the sick.

Later in the day, he retreated to the on-call room. He pulled himself out of the PPE kit and then dropped into a chair. The bridge of his nose, the skin below his eyes, and his forehead were bruised red. He felt broken. He felt every bit like the lifeless bodies he had prayed for.

The fatalities count went up each day. Every home in the town had now lost someone. Then one day the nurses stretchered in a familiar face into the ER. It was Father James. He was struggling to breathe. The doctors put him on the ventilator. He slipped into a coma after suffering a cardiac arrest. No one called a priest for Father’s final prayers. There were none left in the town.

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