Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Beautiful Goodbye
In my last entry, we were getting ready for the pooja at home. There was lots of preparation to make sure the event went off without a hitch. Karran came over at about 7:30am and I proceeded with shaving his head. I cut it low and Karran decided that he wanted it even lower so I did that. Then he went off to dispose of the hair in the river at Toiler’s Park which is one of the parks on the Red River that my parents frequented on the way to the Bridge Drive-In (ashop that’s famous for great ice-cream).

I had a shower while everyone else started cooking the food. When Karran returned from the river, he wanted his head shaved completely so I took the razor and shaved it down to the scalp. Does that mean I scalped him? He thought he looked pretty funny but after more than 35 years being a hairstylist, I thought his head looked pretty good. There were no craters or bumps and no patchy areas. He has a full head of hair, albeit mostly grey. I told him when it starts to grow back, we’ll call him the silver fox. That was done and he got dressed in his pooja clothes which co-incidentally was Dad’s. He looked exactly like Dad with the same kurta and scarf as the picture that was in the obit.

For the food, we made some parsad, paneer curry, dhall, rice, spinach, potato curry and pumpkin. The pandit arrived at about 10:30am and the pooja got started shortly after. It was very short but the pandit explained the symbolism of the rituals. Aunties Maggie and Rosaline arrived just as the service was starting which they were happy about. There were about 20 people for lunch and as soon as that was done

We had lunch after the service and packed up Karran’s ½ ton truck with the things to take to the mandir for the food preparation. I had everyone do a great deal of the prep work so that the actual cooking would not take very long, especially that all of it was vegetarian. We arrived at the mandir sometime between 1:30-2pm. Karran and Prak unloaded the stuff and took it into the mandir.

Randolph and Ram were downstairs ready to start preparing the food. Dolly was upstairs vacuuming the prayer area in preparation for spreading the sheets on the floor. Bena, Sophie and Sunita helped her prepare the area while I ran up and down the stairs between food prep area and prayer area directing how and what I wanted. Every so often, someone would call for me to attend either to the food prep, the parsad bags, the fruit bags, or something that needed my attention. In between all of this I was trying to set up my computer, screen and data projector. I had tested all the equipment at home and everything was working like clockwork but... you can see where this is heading I bet. As with clockwork, sometimes a spring breaks loose or a battery decides to fail or it gets wet and won’t work or it just decides to stop for no apparent reason. Well such was the case with me. No stress whatsoever. The equipment fails to work and it’s a main component of the memorial service. For some reason beyond explanation, I set up the same computer and data projector that I had tested at home and it wouldn’t work no matter how many times I rebooted the computer or redid the connections in different sequences. By this time, I am trying to think on my feet so I called the library at the college and as luck would have it, I spoke to a library tech that had participated in a focus group I conducted last month. She walked me through the connections again (which I had already done since I often use data projectors and computers as part of my work) but to no avail. So she offered to go and find one of the computer technicians who would be able to assist me. She called me back to say that he was not available so she tried walking me through another connection (which I had already tried too) but that didn’t work either. I asked her if I could send Robin to pick up a different one and she said that she did indeed have another one available. Sunita called Sharm who was just about to leave her home and asked her to bring her laptop computer just in case the problem was with my laptop. Robin was about to leave for the data projector when it occurred to me that I could ask one of the consultants from my office to bring the one I usually use since they were planning to attend the service. They said they would so I called the library and told them that I found one.

All of this is happening while I am running back and forth from the downstairs cooking to the upstairs prayer area. Then Sunita asked if I wasn’t going to get changed. I brought extra clothes since it would be cumbersome to be going back and forth in a sari. I scooted downstairs to get changed but a sari is not the easiest thing to get into very quickly. Everyone else had the common sense to wear a shalwar or langa but my sense is not common sometimes, so I chose a sari. Fortunately, I had previously taken it to get it pre-stitched so it wasn’t so very time consuming – although it still was.

People started arriving at the mandir by about 3:15pm (where did the time go so quickly?) and by 4pm, the data projector was hooked up thanks to my supervisor Gene and the service started just about on time. I had prepared a program in advance so that was very good and helped keep things on time. I acted as the Mistress of Ceremonies (or something like that). The pandit read a chapter from the Gita and explained how the Atma (soul) lives on and takes a new form based on your deeds in this lifetime. After that, there were four bhajans by Auntie Jaimattie, Unlce Jep, Chris and Uncle Bhowani (who was not on the program but wanted to sing a bhajan in memory of Dad). Then Sophie’s friend Mesia sang a song titled “Dance with my Father.” She had a beautiful, soft voice and sang with just the right amount of soulfulness to make anyone who lost a father feel that loss.

Then I opened the microphone to any friends who might want to say something so Dad’s nurses Monique and Kerry got up and said that they were Dad’s nurses for the last three years while he was at home and each time they went, he would offer them some grapes that he had taken to his alter each morning to be blessed. They said that they felt that when they partook of that, they were taking communion every morning. After they were done, Karran got up to pay tribute to Dad. He was funny but it was heartfelt and genuine. Dad and Karran have sometimes had a complicated relationship but there he was, doing everything he could for the last rites for his father. He and I were talking last week and he said it was ironic that over the years he and Dad disagreed about so many things but I saw no irony in that. I told him that the relationship between fathers and sons are very complex and fathers put all their own unachieved hopes and dreams on their sons so that their sons could become the man they hoped to be but thought they weren’t. So that’s why he and Dad could not always see eye to eye but there was not a day that Dad was not proud of his son and he made sure that others knew that. I told him that he was more like his father than even he could see and the rest of us always knew that the disagreements were his way of finding his own identity. I’ll have to ask Karran for his permission to share his speech with you and as soon as he gives it to me (as I’m sure he will), I’ll post it.

Then it was my turn. I had been psyching myself up for this for days and I made sure that I did not make eye contact with anyone in the audience, otherwise I would have cried for sure. There were a few times when I looked at Mom, Sharm, Bena and Karran and one of some of them were crying so I made sure to look away, mostly to keep my own composure. I started off by drawing everyone’s attention to the program I had prepared. I had actually started out last week in the typical fashion of recounting Dad’s life and his achievements but after receiving dozens of calls in the previous week about how Dad made a difference in people’s lives, I decided that the program would tell those stories so that’s what I did. I documented what some of the people were saying and that became the program.

I then talked about how Dad taught me the importance of family and how I should never forget that. I talked about the time when I was in primary school and I came home for lunch. Dad was angry that apparently I was rude to Grandfather Khartoon and I had to go back to his house and beg his pardon before I could have my lunch. I did that and came home suitably humbled and had my lunch. I obviously didn’t do it on purpose but it was the last time I did that. It took me several days before I built up the courage to ask Dad how come most people have two grandfathers and I have 15. I told the audience of my usual routine each day to and from school four times a day. I would leave home to go to school and as I left the yard, this was how my walk to school went: Good morning Nani; Good Morning Uncle Ramdat; Good Morning Auntie Betty; Good Morning Grandfather Kaaza; Good Morning Grandfather Sulti; Good Morning Grandfather Charlie; Good morning Grandfather Doobray; Good Morning Grandfahter Subraj; Good Morning Grandfather Khartoon; Good Morning Grandfather Walter; Good Morning Grandfather Indar; Good Morning Grandfather John; Good Morning Grandfather Prem; Good Morning Grandfather Gunu; Good Morning Grandfather Sensey (if he was standing on the dam); Good Morning Grandfather Toi; Good Morning Uncle Khad; Good Morning Mr Powley; Good Morning Sharda’s mother; Good Morning Grandmother Bhan; Good Morning Uncle Boysee; Good Morning Mr Haynes; and if there were other grandfathers from Lilliendaal, it would be Good Morning Grandfather Houston; Good Morning Grandfather Leel. I said this very quickly and got a chuckle from the audience because I was also moving my head from side to side to show how a person could almost get whiplash from doing that 4 times each day. I said that I eventually asked Dad now come I have so many grandfathers and he proceeded to explain how we were all related. I couldn’t leave well enough alone so I had to ask another question about how come I have so many aunties and uncles at which time I got another lesson in family connections. Dad was part of the reason why I have an extensive collection of stories of my family and a huge collection of names for my family tree. I then talked about how Dad asked me to help him sort out their important papers – you know the ones I’m referring to – the title of your house, your birth, baptism, communion and other certificates, your diplomas, your records of immunizations and your will. In amongst those papers, I found a letter that I had written to Dad for Father’s Day dated June 16, 1986. I read that letter to everyone. Although it was meant only for my Dad, I’m now sharing it with you and the rest of the world. The words I wrote almost 25 years ago are as meaningful today as they were then. I’ll post it tomorrow as a scanned image so you may have to download it to read it. In the meantime, I am including the program that I handed out.

After I finished reading my letter, I showed a picture slide show of Dad’s life with his family. That’s what family meant to him so the theme for the memorial was about Dad and his family. I also chose to include the words of the song The Impossible Dream because it sums up Dad’s fight with the enemy that’s cancer – one that he was not going to win but one in which he was determined to fight to the very end. And he put up a valiant and courageous fight.

In the coming days, I’ll put up some of the pictures that I showed in the slide show.

PS: I've raised $780 so far toward my $2,000 goal.  Walk with me or support my walk...

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