Reveries are good, but you can’t stay there forever. All week, I’d been waiting for inspiration.Something, anything, to rouse and stir me. The days weren’t empty, far from it; yet there were gaps. Lacklustre little gaps that struggled to let the light in; that demanded reality. As the seasons move, I recognize the need for alteration and change.
So it seemed appropriate that my sister-in-law suggested a trip to the tranquil Fr. Agnel’s church in Bandra, to commemorate Papa’s fifth death anniversary. Tucked away from the bustle of the city, the timeworn church sits serene amidst sounds of birds and seas. Inside, the air is old and dark and luminous all at once. You feel primal and pristine. Ancient, yet improved. It’s the kind of place where you reclaim yourself. Later, we visited The Shanti Avedna Cancer Home, a few blocks away. I was reluctant to go at first, but it turned out to be one of the most calming places I have ever visited. Peace and love grace those quiet hallways; abundantly so, and certainly enough to alter a little something inside you.
I don’t know why exactly my sister-in-law chose these two places, but once I went there, they took on significance for me. Both the places toned with Papa’s personality. Sturdy and serene. Quiet and assertive. And most of all, filled to the brim with love. Four years ago, on his first death anniversary, I had tried to encapsulate Papa’s substantial life story into a few words.
This is probably how inspiration is found. In little things, in modest lives, in unpretentious people. So here I am, repeating that same story. Maybe it will touch you and stimulate you. Maybe it will take care of your gaps. Maybe it will just remind you of things you have forgotten. And in reminding you, I will reminisce myself.
This is the story of Papa, my father-in-law. A man I’m proud to have known.
It was towards the end of 2009 that Papa got diagnosed with throat cancer. He was old and not very strong physically, but he had an amazing strength of mind. When we told him the doctors had advised radiation, he just accepted it without question or complaint. I do not know another person who has borne such intense pain with so much dignity and silence.
The agony went on for days. And then, God decided that a man so gallant deserved to be in a better place. Just as the sun went down on Monday, the 23rd of November, 2009, Papa moved on to a higher life.
Anyone who knew Papa would agree that he was one of a kind; a man of great integrity, honesty and self-respect. He raised seven wonderful children in his lifetime, saw them settle down into their careers and marriages, enjoyed his ten grandkids and celebrated everything with a cryptic smile on his face. Since he spoke very little, he was never the centre of attraction; but his presence and his personality always stood out even in the midst of a crowd.
Many people find it hard to believe when told by his very successful children, that Papa had been a taxi driver all his life. Those were times of extreme hardship and abject poverty. If he failed go out and sit behind the wheel even one day, the family was affected. So Papa went out and worked every single day, come rain or thunderstorm.
One thing always struck me tremendously and it still does. Whenever my husband or his siblings speak about their seemingly deprived childhood, they only have positive and happy memories. How could they have been so content, I wondered, when they had so little? No fancy home, no branded clothes, no colourful toys…and yet their childhood had been filled with laughter and love. Papa couldn’t provide them with expensive things, but he gave them love, family ties and values which have held them in good stead to this day.
Papa left us with many valuable lessons, precious memories and a legacy of love, family bonding and integrity. The day after his burial, we all sat late into the night talking about what we learnt from him. And the lessons were many; not only from his life, but from his death as well. Even in death, Papa brought his family closer.
For more than a week afterwards, when we clung together supporting each other, we questioned ourselves, talked endlessly, strengthened our bonds, ate and prayed together and made little resolutions in our hearts to love and live well. Finally, we had realized what was most important to us.
Life knows and it tells us more than we care to understand. Not many of us think of death while we are busy living. But when we lose someone dear to us, God might be sending us a reminder. A reminder to pause in the midst of all the chaos, go within and find our essence.