‘lips turning to Your skies,
even I Lord; even I.
‘lips turning to Your skies,
even I Lord; even I.
Little Anish, a tiny 9 year old autistic boy I met in the art room of his school…. well he’d walk backwards to go forward.
What the idea was I’ll never know but Anish did well to keep his eyes on us, and back into the sun. What lessons are in this one I can only try imagine; I remembered him today with this Story Prompt from FMF Writers. There was another thing Anish did: he never cried. When it hurt he sang, that was his crying- a high wordless tune that was rich and sweet.
I never got over him, his cherubic face and wide dark eyes that did not look worried. His world seemed locked in somewhere deep within, he was independent and did not talk much except in monosyllables to his mother.
My thoughts go to Anish now, wondering what he is doing these days: does he still back into the next step,
still sing in that unusual voice that makes me think of angels?
just another broken sound between words, like someone saying something unheard, deep within the skies of nowhere here…?
was your angel singing…waiting for you to listen
for you to look listen touch breathe ‘neath the surface of things ‘neath silenced words like the Voice of a Listening….
to your Unheard.
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..but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, we live: & may I add, we live not by bread alone but by words that proceed from our own mouths, we live/ or do not live fully…..
Words have the power of life and death, they kill or heal the human spirit. But ah the Words of God, they overwhelm basic human instinct. They breathe life, they forgive, grant hope and strength for our own intake and much left for one another. Word of God Speak.
We drive off Commercial street (Bangalore, Peninsula India), 3 pm, mid a month’s Lockdown- the streets are clutter free, we are armed with ID and saying ‘Nice!’ through the pain of losing our precious brother Sam.
Yes, he would’ve approved. “No big church service, just like he’d want it. No suit…” quiet words from his sister Dr.Prema Dhanraj, her eyes misty with love. No sad song & masses of tears. No hyper-parade of bouquets. Just a clutch of family members, though masked, distanced….
He was a Minimalist with blazing intellect & humor. He lived to love but his love was quiet, no frills. If you looked for a compliment he’d say, “Nice!” Or “Good” complete with dimpled chuckle that I cannot get out of my system and shouldn’t.
My eldest sis Thel (Sam’s wife) had a Bible that we all wrote in; she snuck this in his casket: its lid standing on Stone nearby had “I am with Jesus” on it, it stilled me. Still does.
With him, I was my unselfconscious self: was it only a few years ago, he and I mimicked a local street drunks’ brawl lasting not a few minutes? Recently his health got fragile, his shoulders had that tiny tremor, you wanted to hug him just a little longer but didn’t dare make him think you were worrying. He could read your head, know your ‘unnecessary‘ thoughts!
Sam wasn’t big on ceremonious religion but had this Respect for God, a thing you didn’t mess with. It was the way he lived, careful, caring, sensitive to detail. You didn’t hide things from God, if you needed an occasional peg you had it in His presence. I remember asking him for a taste of his cigarette, I was 21. He choked laughing then gave me one: “Try exhaling that, k?” That was fun. I’m rambling. Running from memories I want to chase away, but they’re larger than life now.
The last time we spoke (10 days ago?) was an accidental Group-Call my second sis Li made via our sisters’ WhatsApp ‘Mermaid’ Group, yes mermaids 😅, don’t forget we girls grew up on beaches, (once on a sand dune we’d daydreamed of being mermaids, hehe! The name stuck).
So Li called and Sam picks up phone instead of Thel. Li : “Now who’s this low voiced man on Mermaids saying, ‘Hellooooh!?’”
He chatted generally and about how good he’d been eating the past week; Thel walks in,” Uh ohhhh? Sam’s on Group call with …who?”
T ‘s her bubbly self, “This is a first group call of this, Haha!”;
she & he had become one Entity with shared polarities; how good they were together with their 2 fabulous sons Anudh & Akash: a treat to watch the four of them – each maddeningly independent, ferociously loyal to the other…… oh brilliant even to detail of when to add chillie to sizzling roast, steak!
The last thing he said in individual byes to Li and me….. “Bye Rayla!” His voice strong and cheerful. “Bye Merman, Sam.” I replied.
Offstage while we waited for the next Event at a local Fund raiser…how can I forget his guitar doing the Beatle’s Crybabycry:
with no Lyrics, I worked my own non-word- stylized-gibberish. He called it Russian. We did this very seriously, Thel streaming tears down her cheeks hurting from laughter…
Thel & Sam’s gorgeous sisters: I could write reams about his three illustrious sibling, each serving Humanity like only they can: Bravehearts – brave now, as the Pastor wraps our small service in a Silence that somehow feels right. I cannot find a word good enough for it. Silence can be reverent gold. The sky rumbles for a second, gentle winds settle in the family tree under which the few of us huddle, forgetting Covid.
Death is where your sting, oh grave where your victory? Here we are immortal for the Love that binds us together across continents via Videocalls coming in and familial Love thicker than blood or the sadness of Now.
Next to him, in engraved marble- lies the Stone of his first son, the most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen. He lived 5 days. 36 years have gone by.
Now as they lower his daddy’s mortality into the same earth, there is this silence of a family held by things best described as Peace that surpasses human understanding.
Marriage turns strangers into family. Sisters in law become a beautiful kind of sister: we admire their eyelashe and feature not just exterior but deep within. It turns our lives around to learn from each other through the years. I write this realizing how much we’ve been blessed by Sam’s presence, nah entire families, cousins, nephews, nieces….wish this post could cover also friends that became family because of Sam.
What can one say but go back and forth.
I could never count well enough even at our Scrabble board fights. He a Chartered Accountant / Sultan of Sudoku non par would cheerfully shudder. “If you try to, y’know? Maths is basic. Idiots.” His grin included all non-mathy people with me + tolerant brotherly kindness lending a generous taste of what it was to ever have a brother.
“He’s not here, no Thel?” I whisper. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
“No Ray.” Her voice is level.
I draw strength from her, admiring her straight firm back and calm doe eyes. Sitting down somewhere among family Stones, I am unable to tear my eyes from the candles and flower petals all around, the air softening with dusk and with the Presence of Comfort; with the presence of each other softening from sorrow. Tomorrow we’d be able to take this. Maybe not. Tomorrow would have its share of challenges. New ones? I don’t know.
As we walk back past more names and dates and symbols of Love and Departure, we walk close. Life was/ is short. I want to love without barriers and protocol.
We move past high ornate stone gates; the Caretaker and wife watch their children play with a plastic bat and ball, all safe- distanced from each other.
Somewhere a koyal calls.
It will rain tonight. You loved it cool Sam, but you’re not here.
You’re with Jesus.
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Last night sometime around 2 am sleep got me in little bits: but my daughter’s words tossed me on pillow. “Hope can be a painful thing,” she said, her face melting with the things I was telling her….
…how I want my brother in law back from the valley of death (not Covid) : how bad my sis Thel needs a miracle, how impossible it seems. Sometime now they will know whether he can really make it back. And how. Should I say all this in a Post at all; here it’s become an altar, an altar of healing, prayer for us all in steeping places: the best of us may face the worst. Dearest God please bring my brother back even for a bit, there were many wishes he had, many we all had, have.…
Yes I know the pain of hope, how it can wrench heart. And we’ve seen the fulfillment of many things these past years.
Don’t you too wonder where the spirit of us goes when we rest in particular state in hospital bed? That tunnel of life, the Light at the end of breath….
Yesterday and now this reading: “..the word of God is alive and full of power( active, operative,energizing,effective), it is sharper than any two edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life(soul) and the immortal spirit, and of joints and marrow….” (Heb 4: 12, Amp.Bible)
What d’you say in a day like this…
we wait, pray; grief and hope hold each other. It’s raining outside. Is that a sign? My brother you are with God right now I know, just wish you’d come back for a bit and tell us all of it all. Love you forever.
Just got word, you’ve gone ahead
…outside skin deep existence. Set me free Lord from selfishness and the pride of Eye. Hold me here where my spirit is, with You, in the reality of Why I’m here at all. Lose my heart to love like You do. Like You do, here beyond the superficial.
Not just to fly but to rest on tides that can turn my need for magical cures into the ability to spread peace no matter the chaos: that.
There was no ‘magic’ in Penja’s bowl, nothing but her basic steamed rice in turmeric & garlic fried curries.
If we were fortunate we were treated to stir fried onion rings, tomato pickles and home made breads.
When Penja served you her glass of water it was in copper tumbler scoured clean with tamarind. She didnot own one store bought masala tin or even toothpaste. When you had her rice cooked in earthen ware, you smelt the rice field it had grown in; you were made to think of the farmer’s ride to the grain bazaars …of hands that bore that rice sack to the city all the way to Penjas store room next to her mango tree and coconut stack.
All this made you feel well. It cured Dantri’s asthma, and Shom’s colic. We didn’t talk of it but we knew. If anyone saw Penja whispering in her pot as she cooked, no one said anything about that. We just knew it worked.
She had no visible gods and goddesses in her rooms or in her compound where she lived alone with her mint garden and pomegranate. Oh she served pomegranate in juices, in salads, in curd, with dessert, or by itself. Oneday she told us how we had everything to live well, and how to thank God for the workers who brought them to us. It was confusing at that time. Like we were responsible for causing that much work to farmers. Or God. But Penja, our neighborhood friendly aunt lived grateful. So everything she touched spilled with that emotion. I’m thinking it’s a cure all by itself: gratitude to mankind, the planet and God for all favours received, and for necessary or unnecessary hardships. It all clung together somehow, all of us going round and round the sun in a merry go round of events that made sense or none, but it was like algebra. It worked itself out if you were patient and waited for itself to settle. Somethings didn’t settle fast. Like trigonometry for me, or tonsillitis. Not till after the surgery, and after my throat stopped feeling like a thousand cuts, after which there were food restrictions and no icecreams till later. Penja felt kind especially during those times. She made illness and pain feel important and celebrated. I got a eucalyptus throat wrap and inhaled sweet camphor under our guava tree, the one with tiny anthill and crumbly sand. It all was gold washed in sunset or early noon. You let the sun fall on you, it made you feel altogether and not odd. You picked that up from Penja if you lived nearby or stopped over on the way back from school.
Penja had a ritual of sitting a few moments every now and then to be still. We were too young to know the depth of that. But it felt good to watch when we could. It was like the sky and earth met up somewhere between her ears and gave her joy. This was more than Peace. She had been a young widow, now she was silver white like her cotton saris and ragged hymn book. Oh a golding white, like ripe corn in a setting sun….her hymn book, her prayer sheets and hands – as if they were rinsed in Light. That’s all I could think even back then. Even her low voice singing words hard to decipher, my guess is they each were thankyou words, she loved God like that. Like a personal Person. She was too much a home body to go out to a chapel but it was all in her heart someplace shining out her eyes.
She died recently and left me a legacy I’m trying to pursue in these days of Essential Existence ~ in the art of tomato chutney seasoned with curry leaf or roasted red chillie/ cumin seed. Yeah, all those chillie farms and onion braids in bazaars ripe with God’s own aromas of life.
Oh and her pomegranate juices, they made you think differently of ordinary events like after -school messy socks and trails of homework, ugh. Sigh yes! Like an Elixir.
Penja, wherever you are out there in His Courtyards, I love you for making me think of all that now.
Shhhlisten to me pace…
You my celebrated Earth, my Jewel of Heav’n: your hills are my Psalms,
your rain ~ my answered Prayer, rinsed by day by night, by silver crested twilight;
they are hoarse with saying : “...there is more,
there is more than rational 365, 24×7 glory & gore; shhhlisten
to what summer screams in winter’s core..
ashes & dust try bury humans, but they and stars and all Earth neighbours e’en –
know that we are more than mortal tree and sod, we are the little Footstool of understanding, at the Feet of God…'”
Ay. We Gravity’s babes too may ignore what Mars & all Earth’s neighbours do so know,
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In my dream just now, giant lemon rinds chased us down with mint sprig, down ginger spiced soda, home-made like they used to make them,
& in the dream This could cure disease, even Covid- could it, could it be, the cure of deadly disease that feeds our machine, could it be,
that the cure of Larger distress…is in the Little un-noticed things: not just lemon drops in ginger-sprigged minty ices,
could it be: the Elixir of Life is in often ignored Instruments of Peace?
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