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It's important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail...for what is life if we only shared a mask?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Grief, Gratitude and a tribute to the ancestors

It was an intense November, to put it mildly, juxtaposed with themes of grief and gratitude.

When we found out my mother in law died in her sleep, we experienced deep sadness and regret. To me as I thought of her life and how she led it, I was struck by her refusal to be cowed down by the Indian stereotype of a widow who needed to be under a man's protection to survive. She raised her boys, she built her home, she battled breast cancer and won, she lived her life through its ups and downs on her own terms. My clearest memory of her was at her home in Delhi basking in the winter sun on her patio with a few of her friends drinking chai while giving instructions to the electrician to fix the phone, telling the vegetable vendor that his vegetables were not so fresh and having a side conversation with the tenant about his water problem.

She became, over time the architect of her own life. As I mused about that, I realized that power is not something that is granted to us through our titles, our degrees, our marital or economic status. Those are temporary manifestations that don't stay when you lose your job, or go through a divorce or suffer from financial setbacks. Inner power is about the conviction that you are the driver and you own your route. To be able to own your failures as gracefully as you embrace your success. Setting boundaries, refusing to be cowed down and understanding that you have a right to ask for what you deserve.

Two days later, my lovely friend and neighbor had a heart attack and when she was in ER, they discovered she had invasive cancer which had apparently led to the stroke. 36 hours later, Hypatia was no longer with us. Those of us who knew her were shocked at the callous way Death decided to claim her. She was 55.

I attended a beautiful service last Saturday that our neighbors, Katy and Jim organized. As we stood remembering Hypatia, we thought of her varied interests, of people she touched, of kindness, compassion, gentleness and authenticity. Hypatia had a masters in Architecture and at some point in her early years developed a profound interest in vedic astrology. She was one of those rare individuals who was whole brained. She had no problem accepting and embracing her right and her left brain. Seeking to dismiss neither as lesser or greater.

She and I would go on long walks with her rescue dog, Ruga and discuss everything including the moon, the stars and the planets. I remember discussing Facebook with her and telling her "Hypatia, you have to join FB and have a forum to discuss your thoughts on these subjects." She did join FB. She used it sporadically. Towards the last few weeks, she was in incredible pain. Strangely, her beloved dog died a week before she did. I still expect both of them to walk down my pathway expecting to go for a long walk.

She taught me about the courage required to be authentic. No matter who is pushing your buttons to conform, you can stay on your path and continue to weave in the patterns in your life. Life unfolds like a painting which is never completed till we draw that last breath and the colors shine or dim depending on who we invite, share, care, dare, envy, touch, fear or love...

Twas November and gratitude ran through the veins of the month as families and friends congregated celebrating Diwali, Eid or Thanksgiving in different parts of the world.

I found this beautiful tribute from Angeles Arrien's website that I have included in this post.

Blessed be for those who have been here on earth and those who still claim a physical presence. For nothing ever dies as long as we keep it alive.

A Tribute to the Ancestors
In the rising of the sun and it's going down,
We remember them.
In the glowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember them.
In the opening of buds and the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
We remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live,
for they are now a part of us,
As we remember them.
-- A Jewish Prayer, From a Rabbi's Manual

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