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'She was there in between heaven and earth'

Last updated on: September 04, 2016 11:49 IST

Even though she was one of the planet's best known people, Mother Teresa remained an enigma all her life. 

 

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com spoke to some of those who knew her best to discover the human being behind the legend.

On Sunday, Mother Teresa was declared a saint by Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church in a canonisation ceremony in Vatican City in the presence of over a million followers from all over the world. We republish this September 1997 feature to mark the occasion.


'She was there in between heaven and earth'
-- Dr Patricia Aubanel, her cardiologist

I met her first in 1991 in California. She was on one of her trips to the United States. And she had gone to Tijuana which is on the border of Mexico and the United States, where she has several homes. When she was there she fell ill with pneumonia. That affected her heart and I was called. Since then we had been related. I was very attached to her. Mother felt comfortable with me.

It was a blessing to know here. Being with her has touched my life. Mother has taught me to so much about people. I have learnt so much.

It is impossible to describe Mother. She was a unique being. I am not even sure that she was one of us. She was there in between heaven and earth. It was often difficult to understand her. She was far beyond us. She was a unique, extraordinary human being.


'She would not even celebrate her birthday'
-- Dr A K Bardhan, her personal physician

W
hat kind of patient was she? You know how good she was. In one word I cannot describe her. She was so full of activity. So spiritual. She was very different.

I have been treating her since 1989, but I could not reach there on the last day. An hour before she died, they called one of my colleagues. And there were two missionary doctors in the house. I was a great distance away. Ten or 15 minutes before she died, they called me. And then they called me to say that the old lady was no more.

It will be very difficult for me to forget her. I will remember her every day of my life.

She was an excellent patient. She never complained. She had her own natural therapy that helped her. She expected to be treated as if she was one of the poor. She never expressed pain. We had to always ask her how she was and how she was feeling. She was so happy with the simple things that were done for her.

Mother Teresa was such a great person. How do you expect me, somebody of such small stature, to judge her? But she was such an active person. And I have seen her level of activity (industriousness) with my own eyes. She would begin at 6 and end only at 10 or 11. She was so different -- her spirituality, her activity, her willpower, her energy And her spirituality was her main asset. She would pray a minimum of four times a day. She worked for the poor and never took rest even for her own health.

Mother would have never wanted anything for herself. She wanted money only to be spent on the poor. She would not even celebrate her birthday. The money she would save she spent on the poor.


'She made you feel you that you were the only person in the world'
-- Sandra McMurtrie, close friend and co-worker

I
t has been a wonderful gift to be with her all week. I am very glad I came. I felt very close to Mother, being there with her in the church and spending these last hours with her. I have been praying. And remembering her.

Mother has touched the lives of so many people. Mine in particular. My life changed after I met her. I came to Calcutta to meet her in 1981.

For me she was, well, like my mother.

When I looked into her face I saw the face of an angel.

When you met her and talked to her she gave you her full attention. And she was like that with everyone.

She made you feel you that you were the only person in the world.


'I will never see anyone like her again in my lifetime'
-- Dr Tarun Praharaj, her cardiologist

I first started treating the Mother in 1993. In September 1993, she had a massive heart attack. Dr Patricia Aubanel and I did an angiography.

She was sometimes a very difficult patient. She would refuse to take her medicines. She would refuse to rest.

She would say 'I am well. I want to go home. I have a lot of work to do.' And we would tell her, "Mother stay a little longer".

She was very fond of me. When I would come to see her the sisters would say, "Your son has come". It was a mother and son kind of relationship.

She was like a god. She was very simple and very kind-hearted. I will never see anyone like her again in my lifetime.

She was very simple. She would always, always, always be talking about the poor.

Photograph: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel / Rediff.com