This morning, a few moments ago, when I stepped out onto my parents front porch, I saw one of our (many) amazing neighbors closing his garage door. He saw me. (He saw me last night actually, and when he saw activity in our house he called some friends to make sure all was well.) John’s a great man. He is a great friend and neighbor to us here in NJ. He was deeply beloved by Daddy.
And when he saw me, standing on his driveway, on his way to work, he stopped everything and put his hand up as I did mine. We just stood. Arms raised. Looking at each other for a few seconds. Then we slowly, dropped those hands, and started to walk toward one another. John walked across our cul de sac slowly, with each step, spreading his arms wider than the sky behind him, taking 100 steps toward me with those arms never failing him and never falling down. We met and he pulled me into an embrace with nothing said other than “I’m sorry about your Dad.” It was perfect. And I’ve seen that work over and over again. The best interactions we’ve had start with the simplest of things: a hug, a short word of acknowledgement, and then silence that allows a more natural conversation to flow based on our mood. It’s amazing. Embraces are amazing.
Embrace it. There’s nothing more powerful than an embrace. In a world where people are being crammed into tighter spaces while our minds are being pulled farther and farther apart — I agree with Vinny Chase and crew, there’s nothing like hugging it out.
This picture. This embrace. Is special.
Of all the embraces we’ve received — so many. Family who came from far and wide to be with us. Friends who never stopped stopping by. Neighbors who made us their family. Servants and house workers crying tears of loss for Daddy that showed us their truest emotions and allowed us to comfort them for all the comforting they’ve done for us.
Of all the embraces, the one pictured here, is one I have to highlight. Look at it. It’s strong. It’s firm. It’s supportive. It’s affectionate and strength granting. It’s the Mehta family, folks.
What can we say about Pradeep Mehta and Malika Aunty? All of the joy my parents have experienced in India the past 10 years is directly attributable to their tireless efforts to make Ahmedabad home for our family. I simply cannot do it justice. Let me tell you. I cannot do it justice. Finding the home. Buying the home. Setting up before our arrival, closing down when we’re gone. Finding us help. Taking care of every detail.
And when Daddy passed away, to watch Pradeep Uncle join my Jivan Mama (Neelu Bhatt) and take off of work for two weeks and attend to every detail of our estate in India, and alleviate any and every burden from our family — folks, I’m telling you, I have no words and I can do them no justice. You expect this of family (thank you all.) But we’ve come to expect this of Pradeep Uncle and Malika Aunty.
Yes. So of all the embraces I’ve witnessed the past two weeks, this one is extra special. Because it is a short capture of a nonstop, 10-year hug we’ve received from the Mehta family. In person, over email, via phone, and always always in their thoughts. They’ve been hugging us and giving us their shoulders to cry on and stand on for 10 years and counting.
Pradeep Mama, you are no Uncle to us, you are no friend to Mom, you are a brother to her and a Mama to us. We love you. Thank you. For absolutely everything. Of all people, you made Daddy’s dream place come true. You’re integral to his departing narrative — for without you, Daddy would not have found his happiest of places, to complete what was an otherwise perfectly fulfilled life. Thank you for putting that last smile on his face.
May we have the strength to pay all you’ve done for us forward. May we have the strength, the discipline, the commitment, the integrity…the humanity. All, mind you, traits and characteristics Daddy embodied for a lifetime. That poetry is not lost on us.
Love you, Mama and Mami.
(PS – Thanks for taking us to that vintage car museum. I so hoped for a Stingray for Daddy. But the 106 other beauties were worth it on their own!)
Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.
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