It is amazing how occasions and celebrations bring together people of a family from far and wide. Forgotten relationships are revived by sending out invitations. Some years ago, the occasion was the sacred thread ceremony (upanayan) of my friend’s son.
At her insistence I had taken a day off from office to attend the function. On arriving at the venue I was greeted warmly and made comfortable with a glass of lemon juice. I could see excitement and commotion everywhere. It was my friend’s only son’s celebration and she was brimming with happiness.
All rituals went on according to schedule and guests poured in with gifts and blessings, and left after partaking of a sumptuous meal. In between, there was a minor bickering amongst my friend’s and her husband’s siblings regarding claiming priority in some rituals.
An impromptu mediator was appointed to settle the differences. Big families do have some conflicts of opinion, I guessed.
After the function got over, my friend, who was in a jubilant mood, declared that she had crossed a major milestone and she need not worry about organising any function until the son’s marriage.
Exactly two years later, the venue was the same, but the occasion quite different. I dragged my feet to pay my last respects to my friend. Cardiac failure had claimed her life, leaving no scope for even a dying utterance. She was in her early forties, which was surely not an age to die. All her plans stood nipped in the bud. I was shell-shocked and stayed through all the rituals.
Her husband was inconsolable and his grief was compounded by the fact that he was out of town when his wife drew her last breath. The magnitude of loss seemed incomprehensible to my friend’s little boy. He looked totally under control and performed all rituals stoically. The same family members were all assembled but now bound together by grief. The siblings from my friend’s and her husband’s side were seen hugging and consoling one another. There was no room for bickering as the loss was common. I have been thinking how true it is that sorrow unites persons more than happiness.
It is a strange quirk of life that all squabbles seem meaningless only in the face of death. Yet, we fail to realise this and continue to indulge in senseless mental games with whomever we come across. Let us take a vow to be cheerful and sociable even in trying times until our Creator recalls us.