Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Words I Never Wanted to Write

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.

53 comments:

  1. Oh Uma,
    My deepest heartfelt sympathies and condolences to you, your mother and your family. Your father's picture shines. Your re-telling of your ceremony is beautiful and life-affirming. Thank you for sharing, thank you. Take heart as you remember your dear father.
    xF

    ReplyDelete
  2. May he rest in peace, and perpetual light shine upon him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Uma-
    My sympathies to you and yours.
    I am glad that you were with your father. I know personally how significant that is. And I am glad in his death something else has risen. The best parents are the ones who teach forever.
    Denise

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm very, very sorry for your loss. I think your father would have been proud of the woman he raised.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What beautiful words you've just written, Uma. I have you and your mother in my thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a beautiful message, Uma. I'm so glad you could be there with him, and know he will stay in your heart. Thinking of you.
    Cheryl Coupe

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for your words, your sharing. Life is as precious and fragile as the frost of morning. Your father's love will sing in your heart even as it aches. Thinking of you and your journey,
    Nancy Bo Flood

    ReplyDelete
  8. I meant to say:

    Thank you all, more than you can know.

    xo

    ReplyDelete
  9. Uma, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Being with your father at the end, I know, must be a great comfort to you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Uma,
    My deepest sympathies. How wonderful that your father was able to wait for you to say good-bye.
    Michele Regenold

    ReplyDelete
  11. Uma, I'm thinking of you. Thank you for posting this. My heart goes out to you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. So sorry to hear this, Uma, but so glad you were able to be there with him. My thoughts are with you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dearest Uma,

    My deepest sympathies are with you and your family on the passing of your father. May you always carry with you the memories of your times together. You will have memories that happy and sad as well as those filled with joy and regret. Cherish them all for they make up the whole.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Uma, your father has such a kind face. I'm so sorry that you have lost him.
    Daphne

    ReplyDelete
  15. Uma, my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. I hope sweet memories bring comfort and peace.
    Miriam Glassman

    ReplyDelete
  16. Uma, my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. I hope sweet memories bring comfort and peace.
    Miriam Glassman

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear Uma,

    Your father’s in a better place and is surely sending you his blessings for doing the right thing and sticking to your convictions. I am glad you made it to Madras in time.

    *Hugs*

    Samyukta

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh, Uma, I am so sorry for your loss! And glad that you could be with your father at the end. Thinking of you and your family! Silke

    ReplyDelete
  19. Uma,
    So eloquent, even in your grief. I'm sure your father is proud of the daughter he raised. Thank you for continuing to inspire, and know that my thoughts are with you at this sad time.
    -PB

    ReplyDelete
  20. Uma, I'm sorry for your loss and glad that you were able to be with your dad when he passed. From your moving description of the ceremony, it seems that your dad continues giving. I'm thinking about you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Uma,
    Blessings on you, your mother, and your father's spirit. I am deeply moved by your description of his last moments and the way you have honored him. Travel well....We all love you.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Uma, I am so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your experience. Beautiful.

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  23. Dear Uma,
    My heartfelt condolences for your loss. I was extremely moved by your post and very inspired by your strength to remain true to your convictions during such a difficult time.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Uma,

    I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I know how hard it is to lose a loved one. Your blog entry was very touching. My sincerest condolences to you and your family.

    Love,
    Blessy

    ReplyDelete
  25. Dear Uma,
    Thank you for sharing your feelings so beautifully. I am with you and your mother in spirit in this moment of grief. I remember my own parents passing away and what comforted me was the thought that one's loved ones never really go away. They are there for you when you need them. Even after years, I find myself talking to them at times or thinking of how they would have liked this or felt about that. Take care. Much love. Jayasankar sends his deepest sympathies too

    ReplyDelete
  26. Uma - what a beautiful description of your ceremony. You were obviously very close to your father. I am so, so sorry for your loss.
    Love, Liz Cook

    ReplyDelete
  27. Go in peace, Uma. Your message shines with love, strength and a sense of serenity that honors your father deeply.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Dear Uma:

    My heart is with you. Being with your father as he went his way is a sacred thing, and I am glad for your family that you could be there.

    Love,
    Linden McNeilly

    ReplyDelete
  29. Dear Uma,

    I'm so sorry. I lost my mom four years ago. We were complicated, but my life pretty much revolved around her. I don't hurt to think or talk about her anymore, but she is an unfillable hole. My heart goes out to you.


    Love,
    Pam

    ReplyDelete
  30. Dear Uma,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts and words with all of us, even as you grieve. My hearts goes out to you and your family.
    xo,
    Jill Santopolo

    ReplyDelete
  31. Uma,
    I'm truly sorry for your loss. A blessing that you were able to be with him.

    Much love to you--
    Ginger Johnson

    ReplyDelete
  32. Uma, my sincere condolances to you and your mother. I am so glad you were able to hold his hand at the end and that he slipped away peacefully - those last moments are so precious.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Uma,
    I am so thankful that you could be with your father at the end. That you could comfort your mother, and perform your Appa's final rites. As one of four sisters, I am deeply touched that you chose to do so. It is past time for things to change. Thank you.
    Love,
    Nandini

    ReplyDelete
  34. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Uma. I can imagine your sadness, having lost my own father a few years ago... I'm holding you in the light.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Uma--

    I am so sorry that you have had to say good-bye to your father. But yes, what a blessing--for you, for him, for your mother--that you were able to be with him in the end.

    Much love to you now, as you have begun whatever process this change brings crashing on.

    I am thinking and thinking about you.
    Tam

    ReplyDelete
  36. Peace be with you, dear Uma. Sending much love and many blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Dear Uma-
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your mother. Your deep connection to your father and your courage to forge new territory as you honored him and your traditions are formidable. I am sending love and compassion.
    Dana

    ReplyDelete
  38. Oh Uma, My heart goes out to you on the loss of your beautiful father who as you say found his way. What a gift that you had that blessed farewell time with him. Now you walk the labyrinth of grieving that can bring its own difficult enrichments. May you feel him as close as an ancestor who whispers consolation from another room.
    Blessings and Balance
    Susa

    ReplyDelete
  39. Dear Uma,
    I'm very sorry to hear of your loss and my thoughts are with you. May you enjoy beautiful memories.
    Love and light to you and your family,
    Lynn

    ReplyDelete
  40. Uma,

    I'm sorry for your loss. I see you in your father's face. I'm sad - with you. Your words are so powerful. Love to you and your mom.

    Anjali

    ReplyDelete
  41. What generous gifts your father left you - not only all the memories and wonderful experiences the two of you shared in the physical form but the opportunity to step into an unconventional role in his honor and all that was revealed.

    You are an amazing woman, Uma. I know his spirit is close now and forever...

    ReplyDelete
  42. So sorry to hear of your father's passing, Uma. What beautifully written thoughts; it's easy to see you have such love for him. I bet he left you with many good memories.

    Lynne

    ReplyDelete
  43. I'm sorry for your loss, Uma. I thought your father was adorable, and I will always remember when we had tea together- and his jokes!

    I'm glad you were able to do his ceremony. It seems right.

    I lost my Daddy in 2001 and there are still some days when I miss him dreadfully. It is true that he leaves a space nothing can fill, but hang on tightly to the wonderful memories, they will help.

    TJ

    ReplyDelete
  44. Dear Uma,

    May your father continue his journey and I'm sure he smiled in happiness when you did what was right and carried out his last ceremonial rights. During a time of sorrow and loss you found strength to do what was right and you inspire the rest of us by your example.

    Hugs to you my friend. I know your happy memories will sustain you until you meet your father again.

    Love,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  45. Uma,

    We are all children no matter our age and the loss of a parent is so hard. What a gift that you were able to be there with him.

    May thoughts remain with you.

    Paula

    ReplyDelete
  46. Dear Uma, My heartfelt sympathy for the loss of your dear father. Papa's are such a special person in our lives. His memories and love live on. Love, Joy Allen

    ReplyDelete
  47. What a beautiful father was yours, is yours! I know too well about "that hole that he left in your heart that nothing will quite heal." I lost my beloved father some years ago whom I still refer to as "the finest human being that ever graced the planet." I wrote a children's book about butterflies because one came to me for comfort and to show me my father's soul. I am eternally grateful for your sharing, B Louvenia Azzan

    ReplyDelete