All Souls Day is an annual spiritual event to honor the memory of those who have gone ahead of us. Families, relatives and friends visited cemeteries, paid respects to the graves of their beloved ones, recited a prayer or two, brought flowers and offered Mass for the repose of the souls. When I was little, cemetery was the scariest place the world has ever known where ghosts and spirits of all sorts reside but despite its storied past, I wanted to go, so bad on the eve of All Saints Day, to see for myself whether imagination was real and powerful as knowledge.
Last Saturday evening, knowing that a huge pressure in preaching was taken off my shoulders, Frs. Ed & Ricky came over to the rectory to watch Game 3 of the World Series. I was delighted and honored. Since both weren’t baseball fans at all, much less the Yankees, I’d thought they were just going to give me company but in hindsight, maybe, my invitation was hard to resist, considering the five- star hospitality offered them for driving across town.
So, how’s life without Madhu, Jojo? asked Ed. Well, it wasn’t new to me. It was like a time machine. Before Madhu came last February, I lived alone in the rectory for over 2 years and I got used to it. It was a real foretaste of parish life. Further, I said, the ability to be alone and rely on the strength that comes from within is the stuff of Diocesan Spirituality. Nevertheless, I was tempted time and again, to tell the truth that this time of the year, when October ends and November hits the calendar, I start to enter into grief again. It’s that time of my life that brings back in incremental progress vivid memories of the last days of my Father’s earthly life which for over a decade now, I’ve struggled to face and embrace such reality. I was diminished and since then, life has never been the same again. He was dead but his memories lingered. I’ve learned to hang on by occasionally gazing at the framed picture posted on the wall of the living room and frequently looking at the laminated image of him safely kept in my wallet. I was convinced that one of the best ways to get over such a painful loss was to remember the wonderful memories shared together to remind me of his formidable presence and relentless influence in my life.
My Father was a character. He loved to tease, entertain and make people laugh which my siblings easily inherited, except me. He was a man of few words, of courage and strength. He was frugal in a funny way. Before handing out a nickel or dime, he would spend over 30 minutes admonishing us kids to spend wisely his hard earned money as if he was giving us a fortune. It was no big deal kneeling in adoration as long as I got a penny for candy. He taught me hard work, diligence and fierce self-discipline as the road to success.
Aware that his health was slowly going downhill, he admitted, his days were numbered. When I went home for a weekend visit, there he was sitting in the sofa welcoming me with a smile. Before kissing his hand as a gesture of respect, he stared at me for a moment and said, I’ve been wanting to see you, Jojo. Same here, Papa, I replied. During the semestral break, I wasted no time showing him all the love I could possibly give. But honestly, his death occurred to me almost as a surprise. It was too early for him to leave and I just didn’t enough of him. And if I had known that it was going to be short-lived, I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of entering the Seminary early in life. In his deathbed, I put a tough face in front of many and interceded deeply for the wisdom of the moment.
In funeral and graveside services, I often reminded people how difficult it was for me to stand before a casket and a grieving family as it was clearly a reminiscent of my father’s burial. They understood.
He died at 51…a.k.a Billy Boy…
Today, November 5 marks the 13th anniversary of his death…