Life contains joy and challenge. This year, my family faced one of the most difficult challenges – loss of my father to cancer. A child’s greatest fear is losing a parent. As we become adults and witness our once stalwart, invincible parents age, concerns about losing them returns. I was fortunate to have this anxiety tempered with knowledge and wisdom I gained over the years in Art of Living programs.
Mother called me on August 2012. “Daddy’s cancer is spreading. Chemo and radiation are no longer working. Doctors say we have 6 months.” Hot tears flowed as I processed the news. “Mona, let’s be thankful we had Daddy all these years.”
Mom’s words framed our family’s perspective from that moment. We chose to be grateful. The cancer was already stage 3 when first detected. It was controlled for some time after surgery. Over 5 years, we survived Dad’s heart attack and prayed through numerous surgeries—all of which were successful. We could grieve for what was to come, or we could be grateful for all the time we had already been given. We chose gratitude.
Despite constant visits to hospital ER and harsh medical predictions, we celebrated. The night before my father’s brain tumor surgery, my brother, sister, cousin and I gathered around my father’s hospital bed in the ICU to watch the Redskins win. The nurse peeked in to quiet us, when we were too loud, only to find my father cheered loudest.
We celebrated birthdays with cakes and parties, distributed Kit Kats on Halloween, lit LED candles for Diwali, feasted on Thanksgiving–all in the hospital. Dad returned home after a particularly lengthy hospital stay, to find the Christmas tree twinkling; his favorite John Wayne movies in the DVR. He was in a wheelchair and required our assistance; he was now, more than ever, our hero.
My father was the paragon of cheerfulness, determination and strength. He never scolded us if we forgot to bring the Washington Post, or if we were late with his home-cooked meal. Despite all daily challenge, Dad was still the father I had known throughout my life—loving, thoughtful and kind, intelligent and full of humor.
“Prayer is not asking. It is gratitude–a recognition of the huge tidal waves of love that God is pouring on you every moment.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri was once asked if our date of death is pre-determined. He replied, “It can change. When you are on the highway, you have points where you can exit. Similarly, in everyone’s life, some exit points come. If you miss one, you go to the next one.”
In months ahead, we confronted critical moments where we held our breath and prayed. Dad survived each one. I know he waited until the last possible exit point. Peaceful and free, my father transitioned on February 10, 2013 with his children holding his hands, his beloved wife and son-in-law, circling him. We chanted ancient prayers. My aunt and childhood friend stood next to us in loving support.
My husband called Sri Sri. He told us Dad transitioned at a most auspicious time – – Mauni Amavas, the day the universe was created.
Gratitude. Living in the moment. Making life a celebration. As we moved through those final months, the knowledge we gained from Sri Sri over many years, gave us comfort, protection, perspective and strength. Daily practice of Sudarshan Kriya and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, helped maintain balance and perspective. It supplanted fear with faith.
Knowledge is the best friend who watches over your mind, and brings your smile back so that you can uplift others.