Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My dad finally has peace

2pm, 28th September 2011... It's the most peaceful I've seen my dad in a long time. His long painful struggle finally came to an end.

When we realized that we could not get a pulse, I tried desperately to get an ambulance from the emergency of a hospital rushed. There is no 911 in India so it did take a bit to get through. Would not have made a difference but still... I still felt the warmth on his forehead and hands. Gradually, it was getting colder. Finally, the ambulance came down after 20 minutes. They hooked him to the EKG. All that came out were straight lines. After three readings of straight lines the technician said - "He has gone". How can someone just say that just like that. I was like - "Can't you do something? Please?".

Per Hindu rituals, the body is to be cremated ASAP. The son has to perform the last rites. It's almost surreal that here you have just lost your dad but then you have to be strong and logical. You have to dress your dad. You have to collect the death certificate. You have to answer the phone. You have to arrange for the transport to carry the body to the funeral site.

I helped carry the body to the funeral vehicle and then accompanied the body to the Neemtala funeral site. This is considered one of the holiest sites on the banks of the Ganges. I have never had to deal with mortality so up-close before. As we moved the body to the funeral pyre blood dripped from his head. I sprinkled sand, and holy Ganges water on the body. I repeated the last rites after the priest in Sanskrit and circled the body three times with the flame. When the priest told me to touch the flame on my dad's face three times I was like - "That will hurt him." Slowly I touched the flame on his face carefully.

Then it was time for them to put the body into the cremation ovens. Just so surreal. Just like that in a moment all 77 years of his life would be wiped out.

After about an hour in the oven, I sprinkled Ganges water on the ashes. I set afloat the last piece of his body on the Ganges. I bathed in the Ganges and left what I was wearing in the water and donned separate clothes. The atmosphere, in the dark of the night, all around the river was very peaceful... The Hoogly bridge lights illuminating the darkness. People completing their last rites for the departed.

When I look at this picture, which I have on my desk, I think of the days when he was in his prime. He was a self-made man. Worked hard to get through school. Worked hard at work. Travelled the world. Had a great sense of humor. Tried to give the best he could to his kids. Finally, Parkinsons' kept wearing him down and making him suffer. He loved to eat. In his final days he had to be fed through a feeding tube and only could have a few spoons of water at a time. Life really would not have gotten him much joy...

Today is the start of Devipaksha which I've been told is a very auspicious day to depart.

I am thankful that I got to see him for a last time. I am thankful that I was there when he departed. I am thankful that I got to perform his last rites. Looking at the process for the last rites, I can't think about what would have happened if I were not present. I am thankful for his life. Rest In Peace Dad :-(((


Blogger Eric Lyman said...

You post was very moving, thank you for sharing it. And I am sorry for your loss.

9/28/2011 5:18 PM  
Blogger Sub said...

Thanks Eric - appreciate it!

9/28/2011 7:27 PM  
Blogger Plodding Blogger said...

I'm desperately sorry to hear this, Sub. Even if you had come to the conclusion that life was no longer fulfilling enough for your father, there are few things more difficult to accept than the loss of somebody so close and the way the world keeps on turning mercilessly. You sounded very calm and composed in your post. I have said before that you have a great outlook on life and no doubt that will help you come to terms with what has happened. Of course, now is the time to grieve, but rest assured one day you will reminisce and smile instead. I will be sending positive thoughts your way.

9/29/2011 11:36 AM  
Blogger Sub said...

Thanks so much for the note. You are right. I knew that this might be the last time I see my dad but yet had hoped I would be wrong. It's just difficult to believe that he is no longer around. There's just so much that will be part of me. I sometimes remember how he was teaching me to tie my shoelaces... How to swim... How to drive a car ... Now is the time to both grief as well as celebrate his life. Writing usually helps me with that. Thanks so much!!

9/29/2011 9:26 PM  

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