Two weeks ago, I watched my uncle’s funeral service online. I saw my cousins come to the stage in the front of the church and share about their father’s life. They had mustered up the courage needed to speak without breaking. I then remember watching my aunt who is in her mid 70s walk to the body and kiss his face and not being able to leave him. My father, who is 77 walked over to her, took her by the arm and led her back to the church pew. I was watching this on my laptop from my flat in a small remote town in India. Ironically, this is the same remote town where my father lived for fourteen years some fifty years ago. He had travelled to this town, far from his home and far from his state to find a better life. Once somewhat settled, he had his sister come also so that she could find a job. They were young and determined to make a better life. And in those fifty years, they found their spouses, raised their families, found life and community in the US, a foreign land became their home. So much done and now here they were, walking slowly, saying a final goodbye to their loved one. And I was trying to make some sense of it all. Death does not seem very logical.
Some time ago, I went to the funeral of a man that was at one of our BTC homes. His sister, one of the rescued women at our organization had in fact rescued him a year earlier. They had been split up at a young age. She found herself trafficked into the brothels, he was brought into a hard life of labour at the rock quarries. Through a sequence of events too long to share here, our outreach team brought her out and here at BTC, she learned well the skill of tailoring and has been working in our small enterprise. Again, through a series of miraculous events too long to share here, she found her brother, used the money she had earned at the enterprise to bring him to our homes and cared for him in his last days. The funeral was austere; his body was wrapped in linen and brought to an outdoor crematorium. The young men at BTC awkwardly brought his body into the mouth of the furnace. The undertaker pushed it forward and the sister had to light the furnace. And in just a few moments, any traces of his existence went up in smoke. And I was trying to make some sense of it all. Death doesn’t seem fair.
Kundan is 9 years old and as I write, he is at the hospital with one of our house moms sitting beside him. Kundan wasn’t able to complete his final exams with his classmates at the Academy. He didn’t get to be a part of Sports Day or Annual Day. No, instead he’s been at the hospital for the better part of the last six months. I can remember him looking smart in his bright uniform with all the other children last year. But I probably won’t see that again. An illness has taken over his body. And I’m trying to make sense of it. Death is no respecter of age.
Ultimately, it’s probably both futile and frustrating to try to make sense of it all. Whether we live to our 70’s or until we are just nine, we spent but just a few moments in this world. And if this is all there is, we are of all people most to be pitied. But this past Easter, I was reminded again of the empty tomb. And that gives hope for us to live well, to live knowing that there on the other side is eternity. The big question becomes what do we do with the few moments we have on this side.