In Honor of Mother's Day; a Graduation & a Funeral. . .
My son graduated from college last week. There were ten of us who had flown in from California. Michigan stadium, named 'The Big House' is the largest stadium in the U.S. and the second largest stadium in the world. Yet there was no way you could have missed seeing us at the commencement ceremony at the University of Michigan's football stadium. We were all wearing florid pink T-shirts with "Amaraj's crew" emblazoned across the front. We were proud, and we were shouting it to the world!
The graduation of a child whom you've watched grow and acquire their own set of wings is a special moment in any parent's life. At the graduation dinner that evening, held at one of Ann Arbor's finest restaurants, Aventura, I made a little speech. I believed the occasion called for it.
I began with congratulating my son on graduating with double degrees in Computer Science Engineering and Industrial Operations and Systems Engineering. I told him that since the day, he was born, he had filled our life with so much meaning.
"Thank you for filling our new home with purpose, the memories, the laughter and the love," I said.
I told him how proud we were of the young man he had become and listed the reasons why. I finished by telling him, "Remember always, our arms may not be big enough to carry you anymore as we did when you were a baby, but our hearts will always have ample room to carry you to the ends of the earth."
I put an excerpt of my speech and the infamous picture of us in our pink T-shirts on social media and all evening I reveled in the glory of the lovely and multifold comments it generated.
I was still basking in the afterglow of happiness and pride when I noticed 35 unread comments in a WhatsApp chat for a card-playing girlfriend group I belong to. It was surreal. . .in the midst of tinkling champagne glasses and poignant baccalaureate speeches, I opened the messages to find out that a friend of mine from San Jose, a mother of a graduating senior from U.C. Berkeley, had been shot in cold blood by her husband.
I had never met the husband in all the years I had known Sonia, but the stories about him loomed large. About 10 years ago he suffered injuries in a fall while doing home repairs. He fell into a coma for three months.
Sonia stayed by his side. She continued to do so even after he awoke, a changed man. Once fun-loving and engaging, he had become withdrawn and his moods were unpredictable, they all said. Yet, Sonia continued to care for him and her boys.
And in spite of the pain she suffered in her personal life, she lived life to the fullest and gave generously of herself, her time and her love. She didn't miss a single teenpatti gathering or arrive empty-handed without a homemade dessert or dish for the hostess.
Yesterday she was cremated. A well-meaning friend consoled us saying, "She's in a better place."
But as another friend, vehemently countered, "No, She's NOT. Her better place was attending her son's graduation, their marriages and becoming a grandmother."
Yesterday both of her sons spoke. They opened their hearts; they remembered her with meaningful stories, and they shared the good stuff. They did not shed a tear on the stand, but there was not a dry eye after they finished.
It was clear, just as it had been at my son's graduation that the most important things are not money and material things, but family and friends. The importance of spending real quality time with your children and your parents, eating more paneer pakoras, playing rummy with your friends and making peace with that long-lost cousin you fell out with 20 years ago, cannot be over-emphasized!