is ordinary important?
Dad has been gone a month today. Thirty-one days ago.
The first thirteen days were surreal, filled with prayer rituals to prepare my fathers' soul for transition, from this life of here, to and through afterlife. For a man who was walking around among us just a few days ago. The rituals were detailed, hosted in our home, open to anyone who wanted to pay their respects. After the main rituals were completed, on the fourteenth day was the Udakshanti Pooja, a ceremony to usher in peaceful, more harmonious times for the home, a ceremony after which normal activities in a home may be resumed. During the fortnight, some folks called and visited, some sent digital condolences. Some couldn't, some didn't. We were too caught up in grief to question, but we are grateful for the voices that comforted us, for those remain in our memory.
The hours and minutes that filled the time in between then and now have been long. Each unit of sixty seconds of time has been tedious, torturous & drawn out. And yet the seventy-five years when he was around feel like they were too short, and the fifty years my parents were married - wrapped up too quickly.
But in the end, it is all about the time. It is all about how time is made, valued, used, spent, respected, revered, remembered or cherished. I never quite understood how time could hold such complexity within itself. Until now.
I understand now, how moments built into the present time, the “here and now” have their own fluidity, infinitely deep and limitless as we breathe through it. The one moment can remain only as a memory, nothing tangible, and only if we so choose for it to be.
And yet, once we let our breath out - that moment slips away, that moment is gone, leaving us.
A bloom may wither but its scent will linger for a bit in your memory if you’ve taken the time to get a whiff of its fragrance while you held it in your hand; a gentle breeze may die down in an instant but the chill can stay on your arm for a little bit… perhaps little goosebumps will linger if your skin was exposed to its cool waves; the waters that you may hold in your hand slip through the cracks of your fingers, but droplets of dampness might still remain, just for a little while if you had cupped palms when you held it.
Ephemeral & evanescent, just like the beauty in its frail experience – these moments of existence become memories, everlasting for those who pay attention to the fine details of when those moments were ‘now’.
Perhaps that is why time is such a mystery.
As I thread together snippets of conversations for our family narrative, recreating recipes that dad had eaten when he was a child, or reading over my notes of conversations with him for the narrative, from just a few days before he passed, I am reminded how crucial it is to live in and appreciate the ‘moment’, the ‘now’. I had only just argued with him: Papa, just tell me what did you do when ….. ? And he would say: Oh, it was nothing, it was ordinary, not worth the time….. And before I knew it, we had lost that ordinary time with him.
It is this very ordinary time we now miss the most.
Since his passing, conversations with my mom are punctuated with unfinished sentences that start with, ‘I wish I had…’. And no matter what we do, none of us can bring him back for one more hug, one more conversation, one more blessing or one more chat for advice, one more ordinary fraction of ordinary time. And yet, each time we have to bring ourselves out from bottomless pools of sorrow, to deal with the new version of ‘now’, the new ordinary.
A dear friend, Jay, once related his anguish of managing a family estate after the passing of a loved one. In his truthful voice, he shared what he learned: “Value people, not stuff. I don’t want stuff; I want your time.”
For ‘Time’ is the only gift whose value increases in passage, and only for the person who appreciates it, long before it is spent.