The Funeral

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By T Sher Singh | Opinion |

My mother was 85. One fine day I received our daily phone call from her, but this one was to inform me that she was planning to complete a sehaj paatth (reading of Guru Granth Sahib, beginning to end) commenced a few months earlier and single-handedly done since then. She wanted the whole family to gather at her place the following Sunday for the bhog (completion). Could I be there by 11:00 am?

“Of course” I replied. “Are you marking any special occasion?”

“Yes. But I’ll explain when all of you get here. Your brother and sisters will be here too. This is important, so I want everyone to be here on time.”

Once we were all seated in her living room, she calmly proceeded to explain.

“I’ve been thinking … I’m getting on in years. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life, and a long and healthy one at that. Time is running out …”

A few loud gasps. Someone interrupts her. “Are you okay, Biji? What’re you saying?”

“I’m perfectly fine. I was at my doctor’s only the other day. Given my age, she said all is well.”

She scours our faces.

“I assure you it’s true. You know I wouldn’t lie.”

My brother and his wife, both are medical doctors and have always closely liaised with her physician. They look puzzled, but nod in agreement.

Biji raises her hand and smiles.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you. There’s absolutely no reason to be concerned. But please hear me out first. Life is uncertain. I could be around for a while, or I could be gone tomorrow. I’m ready. And I’m at peace, especially since all of you get along so well with each other, and I get to see you as often as I want to.

“But I’m also cognizant that all of us are scattered, hundreds of kilometers away from each other. And all have busy lives. Don’t get me wrong, that pleases me immensely. But I want to be practical. I’ve given it a lot of thought. My only worry now is that when I do go, I don’t want you to get into days and days of mourning …”

“Wait a second,” someone pipes up again. “What’re you saying, Biji?”

‘Hear me out. I’ve decided to do my funeral rites now and get done with it … while I’m here.”

Long-drawn sighs. And some uncomfortable laughter.

“We’ll say my final prayers this morning, and we’ll be done with it. I don’t want you to worry about all of that when I’m gone. I’ve been to a funeral home, made all the arrangements. And paid for them. When I go, after you’re done with what has to be done, all I want is to have you spend loving time together. I simply want to get all of this out of the way …”

She addresses our moans and groans by assuring us that she is simply being herself.

She does the bhog. My sisters sing a few shabads of her choosing. She does the ardas, calling it her ‘antim ardas’. Last rites. She insists on personally serving the karrah parshad.

We partake in langar that she has cooked on her own. Sprinkled with jokes and laughter.

Today, Biji is hale and hearty. We’re blessed: she’ll turn 92 shortly.

T. Sher Singh, born September 11, 1949, at Patna, Bihar, India. Have worn various hats (actually, turbans), including as Police Commissioner, Lawyer/Attorney, Speaker, TV Host, Radio commentator, Newspaper Columnist on current affairs for Toronto Star et al, World Traveler, and travel writer. Canadian citizen, and resident of Canada since 1971. He was also the editor and publisher at sikhchic.com. This article was adapted from his LinkedIn posting. Go here for more of such entries.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I marvel at this mother, she is in ‘sehaj’ , acceptance of natural law and totally blessed to have a family who gets along so well. I am awed by whatever she has done. A lovely soul

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