This happened exactly seven years ago: I still shudder as I remember that early morning call, “Bob, your mother just passed away!”
“Ma!” I’d screamed, and my cry echoed in my empty house, empty because my wife and children were abroad, “Ma, can’t I just phone you like I normally do?” I had picked up my mobile and dialed her Baltimore number and as I heard it ring and ring and ring, knew it would never be answered again. She had died in her sleep I was told. No sickness, no illness, just an abrupt drifting away!
I didn’t sleep the next few hours, grieving silently, sometimes crying out loud, and when the doorbell rang, I stumbled disheveled to the door, and there outside saw the family. They carried their luggage with them. An elderly Sikh gentleman, turban, slightly awry, because of long train journey I assumed, and his grey-haired wife, with a slightly younger couple and two children in tow, “Yes?” I whispered.
“We are staying with you!” said the elderly man.
And then I remembered!
A close friend had asked me to allow his relatives to stay with me for a wedding in their family. And now they’d come. “Can’t you see I’m in grief!” my heart cried out silently, “No way, can I look after you!” But as I looked at the elderly man his turban all out of place, I took them in.
For three days, they were with me. I tried my hand at little snacks, bed coffee and evening tea, and found delight in their smiles, and somewhere I felt another smile, my mother’s, “Bob!” she seemed to be saying, “In your giving, you are handling your grief!”
And that’s exactly what happened seven years ago.
Grief, fear, suffering, become bearable when we move out of ourselves. My mind goes to that Man dying on the cross two thousand years ago. Nails through his hands and feet, a spear stuck into his side, and blood flowing from whiplashes, and yet when a thief, a murderer, on another cross at his side, asked for comfort, the dying Man on the cross, lifted Himself from His own agony, and gave the same man the comfort and assurance he needed.
As this pandemic makes itself louder, and we get even more closeted with fear, maybe it’s time we looked outside ourselves. Yes, we are suffering! Our businesses have gone bust, our jobs uncertain, there’s death at every corner..
..do you see like I did, a tired gentleman outside your door, his turban a little out of place? It might not be a turban now, but a torn shirt, blistered feet of a migrant walking.
Help him, help his family! Someone suffering nearby? Reach out to him or her, and as you do, you’ll find like I did seven years ago, your despair growing less, and you yourself finding solace, even as you like the Man on the Cross, comfort with caring and compassion..!
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