Gregory Raymond Raphael remembers the day clearly. April 23, 1997. The delivery, doctors said, had been successful and his wife Soja was fine. Heart beating with joy, he had rushed to the hospital. The babies, twins, looked exactly alike. The young parents named them Joefred Varghese Gregory and Ralfred George Gregory. Having lived a life where they did almost everything together — both chose computer engineering, both had jobs in Hyderabad — they caught the deadly fever the same day, on April 24. Last week, after struggling with Covid, they died together, hours after one another.
Raphael said he almost knew that if his sons had to make it, they would come home together. Or they wouldn’t. “Whatever happened to one, it happened to the other,” he said. “That’s how it was since their birth. I had told my wife after we got news that Jeofred had died that Ralfred won’t return home alone either. They died on May 13 and May 14, hours apart.”
He said, “The twins had a lot of plans for us. They wanted to give us a better life. As teachers we have struggled much to bring up the children well and they wanted to give us back, everything from money to happiness. Before they died, they were planning to leave for Korea and then perhaps Germany for work. I don’t know why god punished us like this.” The Raphaels have a third son, the eldest one, Nelfred.
Residents of Meerut’s Cantonment area, the family initially treated the brothers at home, thinking the fever would subside. But it didn’t. “We purchased an oximeter. When their oxygen level dropped to 90, doctors advised us to take them to hospital. We admitted them to a private one on May 1,” Gregory said. Their first report had confirmed the young men were Covid-positive. But after a few days, their second RT-PCR test report came negative.
“Doctors were planning to move them from the Covid ward to the normal ICU. However, I requested the hospital to monitor their health for two more days in the Covid ward. Then, suddenly, on the evening of May 13, my wife got the call. Our world crashed.”
Ralfred had made his last phone call to his mother. “He spoke from the hospital bed,” said Gregory, his voice shaking. “He told his mother that he was recovering and enquired about Joefred’s health. By then Joefred had died. So we made up a story. We told him we had to shift him to a hospital in Delhi. But Ralfred knew instinctively. He told his mother, ‘You are lying’.”