“The pandemic in its second coming has left deep and enduring psychological scars on virtually everyone else,” wrote Santosh Desai in his weekly column in the Times of India. A couple of weeks back I received a call from one of my partner colleagues. I was in touch with him on a regular basis. One of his friends was battling for his life. I kept checking his health on an ongoing basis. But that day turned out to be a sad day. He spoke about his friend, shared with me his pictures and for a moment I was in a state of grief. I asked him more about his family. He said, he was only 42 years old and survived by two young children, a boy, and a girl. The deceased person’s company had offered to give his wife a job. It was for the first time in weeks that I was not speaking and I was only listening and became part of that grief. I recollected what happened to us 37 years back when my father passed away at the age of 42.
I was looking for an article and a movie to pay my 37th death anniversary tribute to Dad. In 2017 I had shared through Option B ( Book by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant), 2018 it was Dance with my father inspired by the song Dad and Son, in 2019 it was My RICH Dad inspired by the book with that title, and 2020 Feather Touch inspired by two movies Pursuit of Happyness and Forrest Gump. Call it serendipitous. That is when my wife encouraged all of us to watch the movie “Inside Out” last week. Inside Out shows us the “inner workings” of our minds. They assign characters to represent our major emotions. We see Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger vying for control inside Riley’s head. One of my favourite line which endured for me was, “It is okay not to be okay sometimes“.
Later that week she shared an article from Brain pickings by Maria Papova which had the below paragraph:
“Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,” Joan Didion observed in her classic meditation on loss. Abraham Lincoln, in his moving letter of consolation to a grief-stricken young woman, wrote of how time transmutes grief into “a sad sweet feeling in your heart.” But what, exactly, is the mechanism of that transmutation and how do we master it before it masters us when grief descends in one of its unforeseeable guises.”
My mother “caught the straw” and found that mechanism over time.
We had the opportunity to visit my hometown at the beginning of 2021 for two weeks. I had the opportunity to meet my father’s brother and I requested him to share the stories from his childhood. Let me call it “wisdom of the aged”. I knew that they had a tough childhood and a resilient mother ( inspirational grandmother). I had heard most of the stories except the ” Journeyman.” A journeyman is a worker, skilled in a given building trade or craft, who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification. Journeymen are considered competent and authorized to work in that field as fully qualified employees. Looking back at my father’s life I could trace the journey from a small village in Kerala to an Industrial town in the heart of the country to the commercial capital of India and finally settling in Trivandrum. My father was very much in awe of new things and was ambitious. He had a short stint in Jordan as well. I recollect all the postcards with the pictures of Amman which he used to send to us. In Costa Rica they call it ‘Pure Vida’ which Simply translated, means “simple life” or “pure life”. Dad lived his short-lived “Dash” to the core.
My sister remembered him by saying that, ” I have always felt an invisible connection and presence of Dad in my life all through these years. Though I consider myself as unlucky few people who had to miss their dad so early in life, I always felt happy when our friends and family shared his stories. I always felt proud how he despite his ill health and short span of his life, tried hard to fulfil the wants of his family so that they don’t face many hardships in life.”
I asked my niece what you have to say about Grand Dad. This is what she shared (edited)
“From a little age, I always remember seeing a picture of a man decorated with flowers sitting on a ledge facing the front of Vivid. I always had a name to the face but I was always curious to learn more about the grandpa I had never got to meet. I learned that my grandpa was a kind man, a man that worked his way up coming from a poor family. For me, although I don’t know much about my grandfather , I do know that he raised a family that never gave up. Grandmother being a middle aged widowed women and still choosing to work shows how mentally powerful she became. I do wish I got to meet him and show him what a beautiful family he helped raise but I know that whenever I visit Vivid (family home) I will feel connected to him and he’s watching us from above.”
My daughter came up saying, “There are some people I wish hadn’t left so soon and my grandfather is on the top of that list”.
So this is also a special tribute to Dad on his 37th death anniversary by his grand daughters and daughter.
I dedicate my tribute to him and to my mother for her resilience in the face of loss with “Seneca’s letter to his mother“:
I have often had the urge to console you and often restrained it. Many things have encouraged me to venture to do so. First, I thought I would be laying aside all my troubles when I had at least wiped away your tears, even if I could not stop them from coming. Then, I did not doubt that I would have more power to raise you up if I had first risen myself. Staunching my own cut with my hand I was doing my best to crawl forward to bind up your wounds.”
But what kept Seneca from intervening in his mother’s grief was, above all, the awareness that grief should be grieved rather than immediately treated as a problem to be solved and done away with.
You became strong grieving the grief and living life “inside out” for the last 37 years. We are saluting your resilience.