Friday, February 29, 2008

A Lament for an Unknown Soul

Last Thursday night at around 9pm we received "the" call from Bombay. My mother's brother had passed away at the hospice early on the morning of February 22; less than 3 months after he was first diagnosed with cancer. It was a phone call that we had all been expecting. The last word we'd received just a few days before that was that the doctors had told the family that absolutely nothing more could be done and now it was just a matter of time. 

So when I finally heard the words that he had passed away, it was a mere numb feeling that went along with the confirmation of a fact.

Once the news had settled in, there was the unpleasant reality of the truth that I was left to deal with. The truth that I did not really mourn his passing. The truth that I did not feel a loss. The truth that his death would only slightly affect me and my daily life.

This was a person who for as long as I could remember had been at odds with most of the family. I had not said more than 5 consecutive words to him in all of my life. I had never shared a meal with him, never indulged in a laugh over common family jokes or memories and never really knew him as an individual.

Everything that I knew about him was either through hearing negative stories from other family members or watching first hand his actions and words that were very often hurtful and destructive and downright mean at times. The family got together last Friday to have a prayer service for him. The entire time I tried to focus my thoughts towards some kind of happy or positive memory. I could not think of even one.

I was highly disturbed by the fact that I had known someone for my entire life, and that I could not come up with a singular positive thought or feeling or emotion to link to him. Isn't that what one is expected to do when one thinks of the dead? Especially at a prayer service FOR that person. But try as I may, I was drawing a blank.

I wondered what the rest of the family was thinking. There were 3 siblings present that night. One of whom hadn't spoken to him in around 30 years. The other 2 met him once every few years when they went to India. What were they thinking and remembering?
I looked around the room at the respectfully bowed heads of my family. There was a sense of loss in the room. But was there a sense of grief at that loss?

And yet, if there had been tears and other signs of unabashed sorrow I probably would have been more surprised. And I would have known those to be false tears. False mourning.

So I whispered a prayer for the soul of an unknown man. A prayer that he finds the peace he was lacking in life. A peace that will be forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...and then sometimes there are amazingly insightful words on this blog.

I am sorry for your and your family's loss. No matter how close or distance (personally or geographically) an end of a life is an end of a life. I liked your thoughts at the service, your compassion and humanity.

I had a similar family situation - great aunt on my mother's side. As I was more distant from the situation I thought more why she was the way she was. What had happened in her life to move her in that direction. That is where I found compassion.


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