V. Krishna Swami, 1925-2010. Go in peace.
At 7:20 pm on January 26, I lost my father, or perhaps he found his way. He slipped away while my mother and I held his hand, stroked his forehead, and talked to him, all the way to the end. I'm blessed that he held on until I got to his bedside. I'm blessed that he was a part of my life. He leaves a hole in my heart that nothing will ever quite fill.
I think Appa would approve, in his own quiet way, of my decision and my mother's--that I, his only child, should perform the last ceremonial rituals for him that a son would have carried out, if he'd had one. It was not an easy choice. I realize that for many, including some in our extended family, it was a shocking choice. I didn't aim to shock, only to do what seemed obviously, to me anyway, my job and mine alone.
I will not describe the ceremony itself. That emotional space is not for public viewing. But I will say that halfway through, under a clouding sky with raindrops coming down like needles, I experienced a stunning clarity, perhaps from some intersection of fasting and focus. I realized that because of the generosity of priests who were willing to bend the orthodox rules, friends and family who helped with time and resources and footwork--so much footwork for one very long day--and above all because of women who led the way, I could touch a small piece of a tradition thousands of years old that perhaps was once open to women but for much of its history has not remained so. I believe that can change. I believe it must.
Because all rivers flow to the sea and in the end there is only the stardust of which we are all made.