Death anniversary: Soul-searching experience with sense of closure

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Suresh Nair/

COMING to terms after attending a Hindu death anniversary can be a soul-searching experience.

Hindus traditionally memorialise the dead with a yearly death ritual known as the shraddha ceremony. Shraddha, coming from a word meaning “faith,” is performed every year on the lunar calendar date of a Hindu’s death.

It’s tradition to first conduct the rites in the days immediately after a death in order to help the individual’s soul move onto their next reincarnated life. As noted in many Hindu doctrines, the “death rites are important not only for the future of the dead but also for the continued welfare of the living”.

Saturday mid-morning prayers for the late Rajalukshumy Nadarajah at Dedap Place, off Seletar Hills, evoked many memories of the importance of  the yearly anniversary of the death (according to the moon calendar), wherein a priest conducts the shraddha rites in the home, offering pinda to the ancestors.

Madam Nadarajah passed on June 27 last year, at 87 and the families of Vijaykumar, Rajes, Rajini, Rajkumar with their spouses Ruku, Cheeni, Anandan and Emah, with nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, paid special tribute to commend her sacrifices to the family.

Her sons, Vijaykumar and Rajkumar, were former international hockey stalwarts in the 1970s and founder members of Jansenites, one of the oldest kampong-styled hockey entities from Jansen Road.  Both worked for Singapore Airlines. Rajkumar, migrated to Melbourne, Australia, in the 1980s but returned home over the weekend to lead the death anniversary prayers.

“After more than 60 years of beautiful memories of the times we’ve spent together, mother was taken from us unexpectedly on June 27 2016,” family members wrote in a modest 24-page eulogy booklet, handed to family and friends.

“We cried endlessly when she was taken from us but we have resolved not to let our tears mar the cherished moments of her, especially her smile, advice and sense of humour.”

SHE’S AN ‘ANGEL’

Describing Madam Nadarajah, who was widowed for more than four decades, appropriately as an “angel”, the family praised: “We know mother is listening from the heavens above. There’s nothing that we value more than her love and blessings. No matter where we are or what we are doing, memories of mother will always be fondly remembered.

“The funeral was a time for mourning, yet it was also a celebration of our mother’s life and acknowledgement of the endless sacrifice she has made to keep us happy.

“Most people can only dream about seeing an angel but we have had the pleasure of living our whole life with one.”

Grand-daughter Levisha, 30, a homemaker and daughter of Vijaykumar and Ruku, recollected endearing memories of her “apachi” (grandmother in Tamil). She says: “It didn’t take much to make apachi happy – a telephone call, a card, a visit, that’s all it took.

“Her family was the most important people in the world to her. She lived to make our lives better and was proud of each and every one of her grandchildren. The kind of love apachi felt for her grandchildren was a love without condition.”

She recalled the weekly visits which were the “highlight of her week”…and “regardless of how tired and weak she felt as she got older, she would always find strength to cook us whatever our tummies desired”.

BEST COOK

Levisha, who previously worked for MediaCorp, adds: “I’ll go on record stating that my grandmother was the best cook to ever walk the earth!”

Sharing further beloved memories with “apachi”, she says: “We shared a lot of good memories together, especially since we were room-mates for 26 years. I still remember how much she cried after I got married and moved out.

“I always hoped she would live long enough to hold and play with my children. I may not have gotten my wish but I’m thankful that I fell pregnant before she passed away. It gave her peace of mind to know that Megan and I were going to be parents.

“I cherish the amazing memories I have of her. She will always have a special place in my heart. I love you, apachi. You will be missed.”

Another grand-daughter Emelia, daughter of Rajkumar and Emah, noted nostalgically in her personal tribute from Melbourne, Australia, that “sometimes we forget that today does not guarantee tomorrow”. She adds: “I’m sorry for all the moments I missed, apachi. If I could go back please know I would. But I know you’ll be in my heart forever.

“There’s no more reason for me to cry. Please know that I love you dearly, I’m just not ready to say goodbye, I never thought I’d lose you, I thought surely forever you’d stay. I’ll be thinking of you always, forever in my heart every day.”

Madam Nadarajah’s youngest son, Rajkumar, Australianised after four decades Down Under, who performed the shraddha ceremony, tear-jerkingly said: “It’s our solemn duty to perform these rites and I’m sure my mum would be pleasantly surprised with my input.”

Former Singapore hockey goalkeeper R. Jegathesan, in a condolence SMS, said: “Vijay and Raj, may both of you and family live on with wonderful memories of your mum. The most wonderful person that God has created for all of us.”

SPECIAL THOUGHTS & PRAYERS

Another celebrity hockey ex-international striker Nantha Kumar, from Mooroolbark, Victoria, Australia wrote: “Special thoughts and prayers with the both of you, Vijay and Raj, as we celebrate mum’s first anniversary. In the midst of tears and sadness, I’m certain there will be an abundance of wonderful memories. God bless, my love to the family.”

To me, Saturday’s death anniversary for Madam Nadarajah, who I knew as an extraordinary self-sacrificing homemaker for over three decades, was a soul-searching event. Attending it with family and friends gave a solace to the grieving.

I appreciate more that the soul never dies and, through the prayers, we have discarded this body because the soul is here and always will be. When you read the verses in the Bhagavad Gita in your time of grief, they speak to you. But when you read them in a time of pain, they are almost like a revelation, and it’s like a soothing hand on you.

As I watched Rajkumar perform the hour-long ritual, it instantly thought-provoked me that such Hindu ceremonies are a reality check to help us confront our grief, interact with it, accept it and keep going on, both in life and spiritually.

Yes, while the rituals and rites give the bereaved a sense of closure, after the first anniversary, they also remind the living of the transcience of life.

As I was leaving Dedap Place, a close friend reminded me that the holy Bhagavad Gita tells us that you can kill people, but you can never kill a soul. No weapon can cleave it. No fire can burn it because the soul is immortal.

The Gita also says: “For death is certain to one who is born…thou shalt not grieve for what is unavoidable.”

Rest in peace, Madam Rajalukshumy Nadarajah (April 24 1929 – June 27 2016): You’ll forever be in umpteen family hearts 1,440 minutes every day.

Please light a candle for a beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

 

 

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