As I write this, it has been two weeks since you’ve passed. The reality of your passing has not fully registered with me. I still expect a phone call from you, still expect to see you when we go for dinner at nana’s house, I still look for you.
You were 95, but you were not old. Even though your body was failing you, and you had been in hospital recently, you were still yourself. You still carried yourself, at 95, the same way you would have at 25. That is why it is still hard to grasp that you are no longer with us. When you got ill I tried telling myself that you might go, because you and I had had a few conversations about your struggle with your body. But, you were always so strong and witty it didn’t seem possible. You said you wanted to go be with Jesus and with your Lucien, and I know that’s where you are right now.
I miss the sound of your voice, the comforting presence of you holding my hand as we chatted. With your passing I find myself longing for one more conversation, one more cup of coffee. Because I know that it is not possible, I write you this letter and I know in my heart you will see this. I promised you when you were alive I would write about you, I apologize that it has taken me this long to do so.
With all the grief, I have been able to realize how lucky I was to have you. You were my great grandmother. Most people haven’t met even their grandmothers and yet I had you. I don’t know if there are any definitions of what a great grandmother/great granddaughter relationship should be like, but even if there was, our relationship was beyond any definition.
From the time I can remember, you have always held my hand. You had immense patience, when I was a child and would spend endless hours playing with me and my Barbie’s, and when I was a teenager spending endless hours crying to you about the most trivial situations. I remember how annoyed I would get when I used to tell you about whatever “boy” drama I was having at the time and you would just refer to your relationship with Papa and how good it was! “Not all of us were lucky enough to meet the love of life when we were 16, GG!”I remember yelling.
The love of your life, he really was until your last day. One little piece of comfort we had was that you passed the same day Papa did. That was a fitting end to your great love story. And what a love story it was.
You were 16, and Papa was a handsome young teacher, at 25 he was 9 years older than you. You used to tell me this fact with the most mischievous glint in your eye! Papa, ever the chivalrous character, waited until you were 18 before he proposed marriage to your parents. But before then, I know you two had your fun passing love letters back and forth through your sisters!
When you married, Papa’s family disowned him. You were Eurasian, his family was Singhalese and wealthy. He was the oldest, set to inherit everything, but he left all of that for you. What a man. And what a life the two of you created. From the two of you came my grand uncles Peter and Ralph, and my nana, Christine. You two were the foundation of our family, the basis from which we all gained our values.
You raised not only your children, but your grandchildren and great grandchildren too. You and Papa lived right next to us when I was growing up and I spent most of my time with you two. And even though I was young, I remember it so clearly. I remember your love.
Even when Papa passed away, you continued to live your life to the fullest, travelling to be with your sisters in the U.S., with your son Ralph and his children in Australia, and even to Kenya to be with us. You even lived on your own until you were in your 80s. You were never victimised or held back by your age.
Growing up in Matale, you were Head Girl at your school, BMS Matale, a tennis champion, a loving sibling to your six sisters and a devoted daughter to your parents. I never met your parents, but they are etched in my memory because of the stories you told me about them. In your days with Papa in Gurutulawa, when he was teaching at St Thomas College, you were, for lack of better term, hot stuff! When we had our family reunion for your 95th birthday last year, we heard plenty of stories about how you caused quite a stir when you used to play tennis in your short shorts! Even when you and Papa went to live in the U.S in the 70s, you were a hit! Working at the University of Texas, you went to every day dressed in sari. In the Deep South post the civil right movement, you were trail blazing even then.
You were born in 1912, lived through two world wars, and lived to see six grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren. I want to stress here that you didn’t just “see” us, you LIVED with us. You were an active part in all our lives, a living example of God’s promise:
“May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
peace be on Israel.” (Psalms 128 5:6)
The most important thing I want to thank you for, GG, above all things, is the way you instilled the love of God in me. For as long as I can remember you used to tell me how much Jesus loves me and encourage me to go to church. You and nana have given me so many bibles and rosaries I have lost count! It was because of your love for God, that at the age of 26, after years of rebellion, I have finally developed a relationship with Him.
You were a Baptist, and converted to a Catholic for Papa, so you had years of standardised religion in you, but that was no factor when you came to WOW. When you saw everyone dancing, going crazy, you weren’t shocked or offended. You actually said, “Oh, how I wish I could get up and worship the Lord like that!”
You became such an integral part of the church because you were an embodiment of what Jesus preached, abundant life, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Even when you got ill, or were struggling with walking, you always said “Jesus loves me, darling!” I used to always find it amusing when people complimented you, which was often, the way you were never self-depreciating or unbelieving of their compliments, you accepted it. Looking up to the heavens, in your dramatic style, you would reply, “Thank you, God is good!”
Another thing that you taught me was grace. Yes, you were so beautiful, but you were always graceful. You carried yourself in a way few people still do. Nails done, hair done, even until your last day. When we were sorting out your funeral arrangements, one of my biggest concerns was whether you had your nails done, which thankfully you had had a manicure the day before you passed! Your voice was ringing in my head, “Sadhana, make sure when I go, I go to the Lord looking my best!” And you did.
I hope now to carry myself the way you did in my life, I don’t think I can pull off wearing as many chains as you did, but I will make more of an effort! I can still hear you now, “Sadhana, no necklace? No earrings? Not even a bracelet???” It used to annoy me so much but now it makes me laugh!
Even though we are all so sad that you are no longer physically here, we, your family, take comfort that you are happy and at peace. I know how hard it was for you towards the end and Jesus heard your prayers. We were selfish, and wanted to keep you here for as long as possible, but I know you wanted to be with Papa again. You missed him every single day. But now, you are together again.
I miss you GG. I now hold on to God’s promise that we will be reunited again. And I will live forever holding your hand. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 Until then, I know you are having the most glorious time with Papa, your parents and your sisters Aileen, Noeline and June in heaven.
I love you,
Your Sadhana girl