Eulogy: November 5, 2011
Because power’s in my blood.
I never ever thought I’d have to be up here, in just my final rung as a teenager- having to be grown up, speaking adult thoughts from an adult head with a child’s heart in tow. But then again, this isn’t something that can be thought about or be prepared for. The sun still rises and sets, leaves continue to fall, the winds get stronger, daylight is saved tonight and the traffic on I-95 is probably just the same, and things.. keep going- in this circle. Nothing stops to let us catch our breath and decide who is what and when is meant to be right and when is meant to be wrong or how things would have been.
But this simply isn’t the time for regret or blank wishes, it’s the time for a celebration of a life. This reminds me of how just a few months ago, my mom asked me to get a book for her, called the Joy of Cancer by Anup Kumar. At first, I was like ‘really? why would there be any joy in cancer? That’s like the definition of an oxymoron within itself.’ But soon, she began to share stories from the book with me and I began to see reason. Because if you actually look, there is always joy and there is always light. So I decided to make my own list of joys-
1. Community. I grew up valuing solely freedom, and of course, like every other crazy preteen, was ready to take down the world alone, independently. And every Saturday morning, in my house, the phone will be off the hook from around 6 or 7 Saturday morning and won’t be back until late Sunday evening. Mummy was BIG on relationships, on keeping in touch with everyone and making sure she was updated with everyone. She was constantly talking to people; aunties that she went to primary school with would know my latest hobby or Chechi’s latest performance. And she was always entertaining! If there was a new family here, a random student chilling by him/herself in AMC’s darkest corners- then, lo and behold, they’ll be in our dining room sitting in front of her world-famous biriyani or bhatura. She loved to cook but more than that, she loved to feed. She loved to talk but more than that, she loved to connect. With one trip on a 6 hour flight, she’d become best friends with the person next to her- exchange numbers and from then on, become really good friends. When I visited her in Taiwan, I remember being so shocked when I’d go around shadowing doctors without her and everyone, from doctors in random departments to security guards, would know me as her daughter- even the ones who didn’t know English at all!
And in these past few months, I truly saw the fruits of what she cultivated- beautiful relationships, bonds with so many people, whom she had touched enough that they sacrificed so much for her well-being, as my sister will speak about later. And I know- she couldn’t have been happier.
2. Empathy. Mummy was always known for speaking her mind. She has this friend who’s really pretty and one day, this friend’s sister came to our home and she said, straight up,” you didn’t get any of your sister’s beauty!”
On another note, she was honest, to the point and always ready to help anyone. One of my neighbors came by yesterday to tell us how much my mom’s advice had affected her life, and I realized how she always managed to do that. She’ll know everyone’s stories, be truly honestly empathetic, and share her views about the situation. She’d often tell us stories about her students in such detail. When last year, I was taking my first college Bio classes, with my own equally- accomplished- perhaps but stylistically very different professors who knew so little about me, I realized exactly how much extra time she put into each and every student. In a world where sympathy is often confused with empathy, I was so blessed to learn to define empathy from Mummy, to whom it was simply second nature.
3. Faith. It’s kind of interesting that over the past few days, so many of her own words had come true. She has always been a very pragmatic person but more than just that, she made sure everything was the easiest it could be for us. She gave us specific instructions on what to do, whom to speak to, what the flyers should look like. She wanted to have just one wake time with the funeral right after- and conveniently, that was the only option that worked today. She knew, and made sure we were prepared.
Moreover, she always prayed to Parumala Thirumeni. Just the other day, she was telling my sister the story of how she visited Parumala Palli first when she was just four years old. Even during my childhood, Parumala Thirumeni’s intercessions were a great part of our faith. It is strangely fitting then to see so many parallels between their last days- Parumala Thirumeni was also said to make similar comments in his last days on faith and his bodily death; while he passed away in his early 50’s on a particular November 2nd, Mummy went to heaven on November 3rd. And now, we’re absolutely certain that along with our prayers to Parumala Thirumeni, we can ask for her intercession.
4. Strength. My mother is undoubtedly the strongest person I have met. I’ve always believed that there is a limit to how much a person can bear- but my mom went over any such lines I had. She went through so much silently. Even in those few moments when she was actually frustrated with how little we could understand her feelings, she acted with patience. She didn’t complain of her pain or even her fears. To be that strong, you either have to made of steel or just be her.
As a mother and wife, she showed us how much sacrifice it takes and what being a family actually means. As a scientist and professor, she was fully committed to her job. She’d go to her labs on the weekends, at 6 am on Sunday morning, where her car would be the only one in the parking lot.. sometimes, for the entire day! And simply as a woman, she always put every bit of herself into everything she has ever done. I mean, just imagine what it’s like to be doing her Ph.D while being pregnant with me, completing her thesis, dealing with a sick baby and doing her post-doc 6000 milesaway from us, in a new country where she didn’t know the language or a single person- young, naive and alone. Is there anything more I have to say to demonstrate her willpower?
I’d like to leave you all with a few thoughts that I’m sure my mom would have wanted you to know. Of course, we’ll miss her and especially as my family continues on, there’ll be giant hole in everything that we do. But please don’t be sorry for my loss – I haven’t lost a book or misplaced a pen. I haven’t lost a thing, because she’s right here. We won’t simply mourn her death because we’re absolutely certain that she has lived a life worth celebrating. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Saint-Exupery ‘she who has gone- we cherish her memory but she abides with us- more potent, nay, more present than any living person.’ And what we once loved so much is a part of us and no matter what, cannot be taken away.
To my mother, there are 7 billion people in this world and today, it is completely empty. This world is silent, waiting for you to speak, to lead me on. But, I know you are here, in this room, looking to see whether I am wearing a necklace today, asking us whether we ate, slept, showered. You are here, looking out and looking in at once. You were constantly working for others, your entire life. And now, I’m about to give you more work in the form of prayers. And, you better be ready for that!