Grief might as well be a four-letter word. It overwhelms, guilts and freezes you in your track like no other emotion. When my brother called to tell me about our father's passing, it was surreal. The tears didn't come for a few minutes and then my brain and heart melted. Tarun and I called the boys immediately. We lost a parent and we instinctively reached for our children in a sweet rhythm of continuity. In the first few days, the grief came in waves and frequently. Having the kids at home was an extraordinary blessing because they made us believe that we would be whole again.
My father's face keeps flashing in my mind's eye - his sweet smile, his pathological optimism, and compulsively happy persona shining through. A few months ago, I asked him if he was ready to be with his mother and quietly he said, "Not yet." As the initial sadness wore, I asked myself how I could be so overwhelmed now that he wanted to be with her. He was a deeply spiritual man and his belief in a higher power manifested in every action. In my heart, I sense him looking at me with enormous love, promising to be with me, just in a different way.
In the moments when my tears want to burst like a dam, I have learned to take a deep breath and whisper, "Baba, channel through me!" and my childhood's "hero-Baba" brings me instant gratification.
With each day, we are inching toward a feeling of relief for him, resolute on being the person he wanted us to be. I've told myself I can't be bad because, in his new avatar, he is around me at an atomic level, watching in his trademark mischievous way. He is, in fact, closer to me now, than the 10,000 miles that separated us before.
Then there is guilt, the most paralyzing emotion of all. I should have visited more, stayed longer, called more frequently, written to him regularly.
Of course, yes, absolutely, and no doubt.
I am reconciling with the guilt knowing that I tried hard within the limits of my life. I am sure I could have done better but you know what? He was enormously proud of me. Did he want us to stay longer or visit more often? I have zero doubt in my mind that he did. Did he trust that I was juggling just like he taught me to? Yes, absolutely.
I am sure of his pride because I am a parent too. Now that my children are adults, I know they will intersect with us periodically and always make us proud. I will stay in my lane so my kids can stay on their tracks. And I never want my children to feel guilty on this journey. So how can I feel guilty when it comes to Baba? This elemental equation has become a source of peace. It is giving me the strength to show the kids that I can reconcile with the loss of my parent in a healthy way, so they know that they can do it too, when the moment arrives for them.
I am determined to bury the guilt, shape "overwhelm" into something productive, and replace grief with love, in honor of a life marvelously lived, rooted in the unshaken belief that his spirit will shine through in everything we do. Every day. Every second. Every where.
With a deep breath: "Baba, channel through me." In return, I will smile whenever I think of you and I will thank you for giving me the strength to turn grief on its head.