Grief

My father passed on Sep 3rd. The same day my US Passport was issued. It has been tradition that my life progresses when he visits me in the US. The first time he came, I bought my first house and got my green card. The second time he came, I bought my second home, a dream home. The third time he was here, I got my citizenship, and got divorced. The last page was getting my passport and that happened right before he passed. Thinking back, it is strange that my passport was issued on a Saturday.

3 Saturdays later I sit here on my couch watching an SPB concert on YouTube. My younger kiddo is playing on his PC upstairs. A Saturday I have longed for this entire year. There is nowhere I have to be, there is nothing I have to get done today. Even if I do nothing today, its okay. I don’t like roller coasters, I am shit scared, yet this year has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. A job change, my elder son graduation high school, researched and visited colleges for him, got divorced, cared for my younger son through his wisdom teeth extraction, sold my house, moved to another house, convinced my dad to come to the US for the third time, vacationed with my boys at Mexico, got COVID, appeared for my citizenship interview, saw off my son to college in another state, nursed my father during his last two weeks of life, held his hand as he passed, cremated him. And I am here on the other side, strong enough to tell the story.

The week my father fell ill and the week after his passing were the worst. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would google ‘signs of death’ for my father. But I read each one of them and recollected what my aunts or uncles or mom had mentioned when others in the family passed. It all started on Aug 27th when he started throwing up only to discover on Aug 28th that the endoleak from his aneurysm repair had caused an aneurysm rupture. Almost lost him on Aug 27th and Aug 29th but I guess he was not ready. He woke up like nothing had happened. Nursing him for the one week before he finally passed on Sep 3rd is what I consider as one of my biggest blessings. The last few days of a parent is the absolute last ask they have of their children. There is nothing after that. Absolutely nothing.

I have had some really strong eye openers these past 3 weeks. After he passed, the funeral home tied him in a white sheet, transferred him onto a gurney, strapped him and covered him with a fitted blanket. They loaded him onto the back of a minivan and took him away. Everything one does in a lifetime ends in the back of a minivan. How much we emote, stress our asses off, hold grudges, push and pull in relationships, things we want to buy, positions we want to achieve, the egos we manifest, everything seemed so meaningless in that moment.
I am a believer of the concept, where the soul lives on and the body is merely a cloth that the soul sheds when someone passes. I also believe in signs. Three days after he passed, I saw the brightest light, lighting up my garage as I opened the door in the morning to drop my son to school. I knew he was going. I have never seen that light before or after. The funeral home director placed the bag with his box of ashes in the front seat and fastened the seat belt around the bag. It appeared like he was sitting right there, I spoke him on the ride home. When I got home, there were 4 birds, I have never seen them before waiting on the trees around my driveway. Like they were there to welcome him home. That first night, deers from the neighborhood sat vigil next to the wall where I kept his ashes. So many signs he has shown me, strengthening my belief in the soul.

I have been perusing a lot these last two weeks after his passing, and I realized that two roles of my life that I had been playing for years, ended in a matter of months, that of a wife of 19 years and of a daughter for 43 years. I may be a wife again, but I will never have to be a daughter again. And that has been the strangest feeling. We get so used to the multiple roles we play, that of a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and we think these roles stay until the end. They do, but the realization that we stop being them is strange.

Suddenly I am not so sure what I should grieve for. My son leaving the nest or my father passing or my divorce. Walking into my son’s room and trying to organize his room is the most painful thing. I cannot bring myself to moving his clothes or looking for something in his closet. It is easier to hold my father’s phone or see his shoes outside the door or his glasses on the coffee table. Bringing a life to this world, giving that little human everything you have, taking every chance because there is no rule book and then letting them go is by far the most unfair transaction in this world. In the end parents are just bridges for the first 18 years of their life. When I left him in his dorm room briefly and walked out, I felt something leaving my body, maybe the umbilical cord? Weird.

Then seeing your parents pass and doing everything for their physical being, is just so unfair. And you go through that twice. It takes years to overcome (if you ever overcome) to push the sadness of one, that the other one goes and creates another layer of sadness that you have to push through one day at a time.

All said and done, I am not quite sure what I should grieve for or just let it be. As my therapist says put one foot in front of the other and take one day at a time.

I am a… Part 2

Okay, my previous post led quite a few readers to reach out to me and express their happiness of how well they identified and could relate to my situation. Thank you. That inspired me to delve one step further and clarify in my head what prayer means.

I think prayers are of two kinds, the standard one and the custom one. Let me explain. A standard prayer is printed somewhere or is carried forward from generation to generation, like the Lord’s prayer or Naamam as per Hindu traditions. The custom prayer of your personal outcry where the language is yours, words are yours, style and mood is what you define, an original piece of art. As a child I was never taught a standard prayer at home. I was that kid who came from Bangalore to central Kerala every summer with a suitcase and frocks in a taxi ambassador or Jeep. Cousins would gather to see what was in the suitcase, what frocks I had, and to hear about the magic of a distant land called Bangalore. Bangalore was the US of the 80s for most Keralites and I was privileged. So during one of those summer trips I found my aunt telling my cousins as the sun set to wash their hands and feet, light the lamp and pray. I followed them because as cousins you just copy each other. In my borrowed pavada-blouse (long skirt-blouse) I sat down with them. They started chanting the “Naamam” which is a prayer in praise of the Hindu Gods. I had no clue that something like this existed. I was surprised why my mother didn’t teach me these things. I just enjoyed the routine with my cousins, happy to wear the borrowed pavada-blouse and feel like a real Malayali.

My custom prayers almost always happened before the exam. My father told me to think of his deceased parents for blessings and write the exam, in the hope (he was sure) that they would help solve that crappy chemical equation or the long math theorem. Anyways I diligently obeyed prayed to them and aced my exams.

As I became more aware of the world, yonder world, souls, God, or to put it simply, as I increased my Spiritual knowledge, the magical Destiny kicked in. I started to believe that everything was destiny. If there was a supreme power that defined destiny, maybe. Until I read about and attended Dr Brian Weiss’s session. It was all about the soul. I still believe is Destiny but the soul and destiny define almost everything there is to life. So then going back to my original question, what is prayer? Are you really talking to God or the creator or the supreme?

No.

You are talking to yourself. To your inner conscience. When I “pray” asking for strength there is no magic happening where an ounce or pound of strength is invisibly pumped into you. I am telling my inner conscience to become stronger. Before all those exams I wrote, when I prayed to get good marks, nobody changed my answers on the answer sheet to make a 70, 95. What I had learnt and wrote got me the 95. Let’s take this example, you are going through a rough phase. You pray for help, strength, happiness whatever. 9 out of 10 times (unless your destiny is totally crappy) in a few hours or days or months the rough phase will pass. And you think, God made this happen, He turned things around. But really, did He? Look at it from the opposite side, good things were in store, so before that there was a low, that is how destiny plays out. Everyone can’t have good times all the time and everyone can’t have bad times all the time. So, did prayer do the magic?

So then why pray?

It is to create a layer above you. Otherwise we would simply drown in our ego. The layer you are creating above you is your conscience. It is your conscience that you should uphold at all times, irrespective of what you do. From times unknown or from religions created around the world, this layer has been called God. So we pray to God.

This is where the whole concept of custom prayer sky rockets way above my head. How can there even be a custom prayer? And that too loudly recited? Whose inner conscience are you reaching out to, your neighbors? Because the emphasis is not (most often) on feeling or meaning each word but play catch up. If you are slow you skip words to make the chorus sound right. It is funny and sad. People’s belief in custom prayers has blinded them from their inner conscience, is my personal take.

I am not an atheist. Atheist is one who does not believe in God. Do they believe in their inner conscience, maybe not is what I can guess. I am not sure. The only staunch atheist I know is my brother. Yes isn’t it a paradox that my father a staunch Brahmin and his son just the opposite.. 🙂. Having said everything I said above, I am starting to think that I am in between.. I believe in my inner conscience and I call that conscience God.

I want to teach my children to pray, so they believe in their inner conscience and can reach within for answers. That is what is important is my deduction based off what I wrote and read and spoke over the last few days. Not religion.. not practices.. what they decide to call this inner conscience and the practices they decide to adopt is upto them.

Day 7: Life lessons – dependency and happiness

After a short break to take care of some life changes, I am back with life lessons. Today’s lesson is driven by my little one. He has been sad due to some changes at home. He seems sad every time I talk to him. This took me back to a time when I was sad because I wasn’t getting my husband’s time for a conversation due to his busy work schedule. I used to be down and sad and felt lost. He told me after a few days of cribbing and nagging that my happiness should not depend on another person or anybody.

When he said it, a bell rang in my head, like someone had just knocked me hard on my head. As the days passed I kept thinking about this and I learnt that what he said was a 100% true. I started observing people, happy people and saw that they were happy within. Their reason for happiness was not someone or something outside them.

This was an eye opening discovery for me as I started finding happiness within me. As I dug up those hidden coves inside me, I became a genuinely happy person.

Your happiness lies inside you, like your center of gravity, it’s your balance and you need to find it. It’s definitely there, because that is one of the mandatory parts He put in us. We just have to find it and stay happy !

Cheers to happiness.. your and mine !!

Day 5 : Life lessons – God provides

Like the past few weeks, today evening again I got an invite from a good friend of mine to attend bible study at her house. She was kind enough to call me again today, in spite of the fact that I declined a few of her earlier invitations, because I had something else to do. This was the first time I was attending bible study and I asked my kids just before heading out of the door, if we needed to carry the Bible. My younger one promptly said, “Amma, God provides!” As I thought about what he had said, I realized that his timely statement had such greater and deeper meaning. God was going to show it to me in more ways than one later during the day.

At the bible study I met a couple of other families. Honestly, it felt so good interacting with people who were not from my company or from my state or from my country. The four families gathered in that house, or whom God brought together were from four different countries. It was amazing to see how people could gather from different spectrums, different lives to talk about God. It was a group of people who genuinely wanted to be nice to each other. Only if this message could be passed to the whole world.

Anyways, so I met a young woman, single, mother of four children, who had recently relocated to Bentonville. She was working towards establishing her own housekeeping services company by starting out small and was in need of more clients. I told her about the Nextdoor app, which was new to her and how it could help her. I got her visiting card and put out recommendations in Nextdoor and the Indian community on FB. I don’t know if this will help her or not, but it was a channel that God provided to her to help her. And as I thought back to what my son has said before we left home, “God provides”, I realized how soon He teaches us.

As we progressed through the Bible study which was about quick listening, slow anger, doing (James Chapter 1:19-27) I was thinking about how God has provided for me. As I grew up, my parents lived from paycheck to debt to paycheck to debt. Most of my school and engineering fees was loans given by kind-hearted people. God didn’t provide us with a spacious house, a car, bank balance, jewelry, fine clothes, and all the materialistic things that money could buy, but He provided my parents with ideas to keep the money flowing just enough to educate their children. God provided my brother and I with enough intelligence to do well at studies. He provided my brother and I the wisdom to understand the meagerness of resources and use it well. He provided my brother and I the will to overcome, to study, to get further in life, to provide for our parents in their old age. All gifts don’t come wrapped in packages. The most valuable ones come as blessings, when God provides!

Truly, truly blessed!

Day 3 : Life lessons – People in our lives

This is a quote by Mother Teresa and I totally believe it. There is a rhyme and reason for every person in your life. Even the sales guy who drops in once in a while selling things in their goody bag. Recently, when I was in a mental turmoil about my job, my friend, my family, my father, one late evening there was a knock on my door. When I peeped through the glass window, I saw a young lady standing there smiling with a stack of books in a hand. I opened the door and left the door half closed, half open because I didn’t know who this person was and it was pretty late. She told me, she was studying and selling books to help fund her education. Because it was a woman and because she mentioned education I decided to buy a book from her. I paid the money, got the book and out of nowhere she asked me, “is it okay with you if we pray together?” I was caught by surprise. Nobody has come to my door with this request. I said okay. She stood there outside my door on a dark night and prayed for me, my children, for my happiness. It could be a sales gimmick, that’s what you would think when you think from your head. But I tend to think from my heart in such situations and felt a strange calm after she left. I did not get the answers to my issues in life immediately but I got the assurance the God is seeing everything, He is watching over me and He will show me the way just before the turn.

She came to me with a purpose. She was a blessing.

I have been blessed many times over with the presence of women who have taught me “what not to be”. A certain member of my extended family thought it was her primary responsibility to domesticate me. I was Katherine the shrew she had to tame. At that time I was naive and took a big hit on my self confidence, self respect. But in a few years, He jumped in, held my hand and walked me away. Through the whole ordeal I learnt more about myself. The levels to which I could be downgraded, how I would fight such situations and come out a more confidant, self respecting woman. There were other women who through experiences taught me very well, to the comma and to the dot, what not to be. Those were exemplary life lessons.

Life teaches you everyday the purpose of each person and whether they are a blessing or lessons. God tactically places them in your life so that you can evolve into the person you truly are!

Blessed!