Honoring My Father: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity

My life will continue to be enriched by his wise counsel and unconditional affection.
Honoring My Father: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity

Acknowledging your grief is not self-pity, nor is it a cryfor help. On the contrary, it has been empowering for me to recognize that Iwill live with this grief for as long as I live. But I won't be paralyzed ormired in depression.

My father's death is not devoid of meaning. And my griefwill not diminish over time. The realization that grief should be honoredenables me to live authentically. Abba enriched my life and taught me so muchabout keeping one's head above water, even in the most grueling situations. Isee Abba's life as a model to be emulated. I don't pretend that life isperfect, and I don't pretend to be perennially happy. Knowing that life isshort motivates me to live it deliberately and responsibly.

I promise the retreating wraith of my father that I willcommemorate and honor him in everything I do. He will not drown in oblivion.And my life will continue to be enriched by his wise counsel and unconditionalaffection.

We put our best foot forward in times of difficulty andadversity. My father's unconditional love taught me to see hard times as anopportunity to grow, not as a misfortune.

My father would tell my mother that he knew his time wasnigh, but every time I spoke to him, he told me not to take any impulsivedecisions and promised to wait for me. And he didn't let me down. He was soproud to see pictures of my oath ceremony and listened to my stories with raptattention. That is something only an indulgent father can do. I kept my fatherabreast of every development and every milestone in my life. I would havecandid conversations with him, and every conversation healed my soul.

His mind remained strong and alert till the end. My fatherdidn't suffer fools gladly. When I went to see him in March, he had my work cutout for me. He didn't want me to brood or sulk, and made sure that I fulfilledevery task he wanted me to. He insisted I call on my uncles who had beenreleased not long before I got to Srinagar. Several of my cousins asked me ifmy father broke down when he bid me farewell. The truth is that he wasincredibly calm and composed. He bid me farewell in his voice of steel and hisdemeanor was immensely dignified. He taught me to be grateful for God's merciesand was a content man. I never saw my father grieve, because he looked formeaning in every situation, and didn't forget to count his blessings. That'sthe strength I want as well.

There is great strength in acceptance of the inevitable.There is great strength in recognizing that life is never free of pain, and itis empowering to embrace that pain. There is great strength in recognizing thatwe held up with dignity and resilience when adversity knocked on our doors.There is great strength in finding meaning and purpose in adversity. There isgreat comfort in knowing that we left no stone unturned to be with our lovedones in their last moments. There is great comfort in knowing that even whenconfronted with seemingly unsurpassable challenges, we didn't let our lovedones down. There is great comfort in knowing that some wounds never heal. Theysimply become an integral part of our being. There is great comfort in knowingthat's it's fine to miss your loved ones, every step of the way, when they aregone.

Soon after graduating medical school in Calcutta, my fatherreturned to Kashmir.

As a physician, he spent his earlier years in rural areasand worked with immense dedication, which those who knew him recall well. Hehad fond memories of the time he spent in Kupwara and Budgam.

I am incredibly touched by the messages I have received fromthe backwaters where my father served as a physician. People from Baramullah,Kupwara, and Budgam, whom I have never met, have reached out to me.

I have also received very kind messages from the students ofMadr-e-Meherbaan Public School, who had met my father on various occasions.Most of those children are from rural Kashmir. To see Kashmiri children believein themselves, in whatever small way, would have given my father enormous joy.

My father believed in the dynamism of the Kashmiri people.

He believed that despite the blows that fate dealt them,they would emerge unscathed. He believed that quality education would give themthe wherewithal to carve their own paths.

For my father, politics was not governed by pragmatism. Onthe contrary, he believed politics was governed by conviction and the abilityto sway public opinion in one's favor by moral authority.

He believed in those who invoked the moral, legal, andconstitutional authority of the people's voice.

He was tenaciously bound me to the territory, the people,and the sociocultural ethos of Kashmir.

His prayers for a peaceful and conflict free Kashmir wherepeople would lead lives of pride, dignity, and liberty remained fervent tillthe very end.

It is for his sake that I will ensure that my daughter has aprideful identity, one layer of which is Kashmiri.

I asked my father to translate one of Mahjoor's poems for mefor an article I was writing. Given his evolved political and nationalistconsciousness, Abba did an impeccable translation, which I incorporated in mybook:

"Shun the dispute, open the discourse among yourselves,

Share true love along yourselves,

Cleanse your hearts, forget disputes,

Say no to malice, share your pains,

Strive together in hard times,

Hold each other's hands at all times,

Milk is Muslim; Hindus the sugar,

It is natural that milk together goes with sugar

Co-existence in peace is the lesson Mahjoor teaches"

(Mahjoor, translation by Dr. Mohammad Ali Matto).

The biggest strength is in knowing that those loved onesgave us wings to fly and roots to come back to. That's what my father did forme!

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