Tag Archives: grieving

DADDY | “WAIT, WHAT?” or HOW I GRIEVE

“Do not hang up the phone. You need to tell me what happened.” I told her. Calmly but directly.

“Your father. He’s no longer with us.” My cousin told me. She wanted me to call my mom and hear it from her, but when you get a phone call like that at 10:30pm, you know you need the information right away.

That’s how I learned my father had died. From a phone call late on a Saturday evening. He and my Mumma were at their home in India, on their annual visit. They were there, and then, in a flash, only she was there. That’s how real life gets. Quickly.

What followed was a whirlwind. Getting my sister. Looking for tickets to India. Coordinating a fly through Dubai where I could get my VISA so I could enter the country. Saying goodbye to my family here — and oh wow, talking to Anaiya about her Dadaji turning into a star. Arriving and seeing my Mumma. Then seeing my Daddy’s body in a clear, refrigerated coffin in the bedroom. And then everything that followed.

I had time. At the airport. On flights. But I had no space. I had zero space. I was instantly immersed in the entire world and sometimes all I wanted to do was cry. (Note: The two best places to cry in an airport are the bathroom, and, a gate that’s just been vacated. Push your face up against the window looking out and let it fly. If necessary, to distract even more, hold your phone up to your ear. It’s amazing the cues you can give to people that help you create space.)

The one place I found space was on Facebook. Facebook got me through. Because I could ignore everything and just write.

A funny thing happened. I found my voice. I found my POV about all of this.

A funnier thing happened. I realized quickly I was writing for all the people who loved my Daddy but couldn’t be there (we were in India, some were in other parts of India, others were in the US — few of the hundreds to thousands who would have wanted to be there were able to be.) My writing turned into a way to help people grieve and connect. I was humbled.

And then, an even funnier thing happened. People who had lost someone reached out and told me that what I was writing was helping them. Grieve now. Grieve for someone they had lost recently or even, years and years ago.

People reached out and told me to package this in some way. Package this writing because it could be helpful to others who go through this. Not just the words, but the approach of just laying bare all the truth.

Everyone grieves and heals differently. The only thing I can say with confidence is that this helped me. Which is why I’m sharing as I was asked to.

I moved everything from Facebook to my blog, and have for the first time, in years made this blog public. And I’ve organized it and summarized it below for anyone who needs it or wants it. I’m skeptical it will be shared, but if it is even once, then it was all worth it.

  1. February 4th: A Star – The announcement.
  2. February 7th: Ami Chhatna or Auspicious Rain – Observations around the cremation.
  3. February 8th: On Grieving or A Single Blade – Advice and context for people trying to console those grieving.
  4. February 9th: My Sis or Creating Space – My love for my sister and helping others understand her unique grief.
  5. February 14th: Love or The Insanely Finite – A short post for Valentine’s Day.
  6. February 15th: 12/40 or Happy Birthday, Priya – My wife’s 40th birthday.  She’s amazing.
  7. February 21st: Embrace It or On Your Shoulders – Acknowledging all the support and strength we were given, one Mama in particular.
  8. February 23rd: Memorial Service or Kishore Kumar Said it Best – Setting the tone for a memorial service that would honor Daddy and also, one he would have enjoyed. 🙂
  9. March 3rd – Forever Man or Forever, Man – One month after; I wrote a poem that I still read all the time.
  10. March 6th – “Thank you. For everything.” or Thank you for everything – For my Mumma. My first post after the memorial service and I always knew the first page would be turned here; and I had been writing this post in my mind for a full month.
  11. March 12th – Sir, I Gave you my Word or What Gives you Faith in Humanity – One of my favorite stories about my Daddy. We made this the program at the service; a takeaway, something to remember him and his values by.
  12. April 5th – Tending vs Trending to Entropy or High Hopes – A family wedding, two months after Daddy died. My thoughts on it, and a conversation with him to help me get through it.
  13. April 24th – Go Birds or Humbled by Thoughtful – One of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received; Daddy was a huge Eagles fan and this gift in his honor … I have no words.
  14. April 26th – 4 Years Ago or A Lifetime Ago – Amazing what a simple photo can trigger. Let it trigger.
  15. May 21st – Just Monday or Unvarnished Truth – It’s not easy. I missed Daddy a lot this day and I allowed myself to be truthful about it; but forward looking about it.
  16. June 17th – Dali’s Persistence or Happy Father’s Day – 4.5 months later on my first Father’s Day without you; I’ve found real peace in how I plan to move forward.

If you’re reading these, I hope you find them helpful. If you think someone else would find this helpful, share away.

Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.

Also, it helps that I’ve taken a bunch of his clothes and wear him with me as much as I can. 🙂

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DADDY | DALI’S PERSISTENCE or HAPPY FATHER’s DAY

This won’t be my last post about all of this. But I’m putting a period on a 4.5 month sentence today. I knew I would. With the way life happened and with all the life that has happened since we got that phone call on that Saturday night and heard the news. That you. You were the news. You leaving was the news. I had this day in my mind almost as soon as I got my mind back. So I’m putting a period on a sentence today.
It’s a hell of a sentence by the way. Faulkner and Joyce turned a sentence into pages; this one’s days, weeks, months. And also lifetimes.
Death sucks. It warps the world. It bends time. It confuses the senses and it makes no damn sense. It’s like a Dali painting in some ways.
BLOG | Persistence of Memory
For you, it sucks because of all the things you didn’t get to do. All the things you didn’t get to resolve. All the things you didn’t get to finish. See. Taste. Address. For most other people death also sucks for all the little things you didn’t get to do: shower, shave, comb your hair, put your shoes away, make sure your wallet was in its place, meticulously organize your entire estate so nobody who followed up on anything had to worry a lick about anything. You know. Big and small things.
Death sucks for me, for mom, for Tita, for all the rest of us, death sucks for all the things we will do without you. Forever. That’s the bottom line. Death sucks if we focus on all the things we will do without you. Crushingly sucks.
But it doesn’t have to. I’m so focused on the fact that it doesn’t have to.

Death sucks when we live in a Janet Jackson world of “what have you done for me lately”. Death sucking is so much of what’s wrong with our world. We forget how we got here. We forget what made us. We forget what we loved. What we enjoyed. What we experienced. For all the recycling bins out there, we still dispose at order of magnitudes more than we reuse. More than we recycle.

More than we relive.

I’m not advocating living in the past. That’s not healthy either. I am advocating appreciating the hell out of it though. Every day has to start with thank you, not a to do list. Only when you start that day off with a thank you, and subtle nod to everything in the past, does death suck less.
I’m 43.
I’ve got an amazing wife.
I’ve got ridiculous kids.
I’ve got Mumma.
I’ve got Tita.
I’ve got in-laws who, well, I’ve got folks. Just more folks.
I’m pursuing (finally) some of the things I love in the hours between those kids, that wife, that life.
I’ve got …
…and that ellipsis can go on for days. I could keep going and not have space, time, need for a period. (Absalom! Absalom!)
I’m not advocating living in the past. I’m advocating that never ever forget that today is the product of an infinite set of moments and yesterdays — and you, Daddy, were essential to all of those.
It starts there. It really, truly, so ridiculously honestly helps, to start there.
It’s also important not to end there. Yes. There are a million things I see every day that make me think of you. Whether it’s how your granddaughter eats cherries. Or how your grandson ensures he has a good time at every party. You’ve got your legacy. And it’s $%&*’ing wonderful.
But sometimes, that’s what makes death suck even more. You’re so visibly here and you’re so clearly not here.
It sucks.
But there’s a moment when it doesn’t, Daddy. There’s this amazing moment when it doesn’t.
It’s when I hop on the elliptical (not enough).
It’s when I make a ridiculous dad joke (too much).
It’s when I make practical sense of emotional nonsense at work (no comment).
It’s when I try and make sure that Priya feels the way that Mom always felt (I failed at that pretty hard a couple of weeks ago, btw, you’d have hated that.)
It’s when I focus less on emulating on, less on recognizing you, and more on honoring you. Honestly.
Just trying to do the things that would have make you smile.
It’s what works for me.
I don’t know what works for anyone else.
But it’s what works for me. I can’t forget this, you. As long as I remember to say thank you every morning, and to honor your spirit every day, you are simply: persistent.

Like time. Time is persistent. Time is stubborn. It doesn’t care what else is happening in the world. It just keeps moving. It can warp. It can bend. It can feel too short and it can feel eternal. But in the end, all time does is keep moving forward.

That’s what made me think of that silly painting that every college student had in their dorm room or at least, on their floor.

The front of that painting is disturbing, warped, bent, liquid, fluid. But meticulously done. Precise. I bet you read about this already, Daddy. But Dali was meticulous and deliberate about every stroke in a manic way. That’s time. That’s today. Warped. Bent. Fluid, Strewn about and exhausted.
But the back of that painting is time too. It’s fixed. It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s Catalonia. It’s Dali’s home. It’s alright.
Happy Father’s Day. For all the warping that’s been in front of us these past 4.5 months, Daddy, I’ll tell you. You’re Catalonia. You’re Catalonia when I look back, and starting today, deliberately, painstakingly, in a way that would make Dali proud, you’re Catalonia when I look forward.
I love you. I’ll do better. You’ll be proud. We’ll move forward. Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.
We’ll make it not.
Period.
WEDDING | Lets Go
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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My $.02 | Preparing for the Inevitable

I’ve written this post 3 different times in the past 24 hours. Each time I write it get caught up in a theme and a trend, and I end up talking about things and giving advice on things I really have no business talking about.

I’m just a guy. Who lost his dad. And who learned some things as a result of that process that I thought would be worth documenting and sharing here. Each situation is different. I am happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk and share my $.02. Email me if you want: suneet (@) gmail (dot) com

The purpose of this post is to build on those fundamental steps and move forward; as a result, I’ve organized the post into four sections:

  • The Fundamentals (what to think about first)
  • The Individual (my Daddy)
  • The Spouse (my Mom)
  • The Intended Beneficiaries (my sis, me, Priya, the kids, everyone else)

Each builds upon the prior. An important distinction because as a person, depending on age and responsibility, you can be the Individual thinking through legacy, the Spouse of someone who’s thinking through legacy, and, the Designated Beneficiary responsible for carrying forward someone else’s legacy. Most of my friends and peers are actually all three.

A Note on the Fundamentals

There is an underlying assumption here. That you have already:

  1. made a will;
  2. considered and evaluated a trust;
  3. documented all assets and ownership (financial accounts with joint ownership or designated beneficiaries, hard assets with titles of ownership, like cars and house(s)); and
  4. created a digital will, too. Yup. Accounts, usernames, passwords, for all online presences.

None of the below matters unless you’ve completed the above and established a baseline. There are hoards of resources available to you if you want to move forward; I urge you that if you are to start with an Estate Attorney make sure you talk to the Attorney about their services included up to the inevitable moment, and, what they provide after. Get clarity upfront. I issue this warning a few times because it can’t be overstated.

A Note to the Individual

If you are a person with things, then you are “the individual”. The person who will die at some point and who will leave people behind to take over. This is one of the biggest things I learned in my experience with my Daddy. He had everything incredibly under control, but, he was also terrible at communicating about it.

Lesson #1: When you’re gone, you’re gone. You won’t be available for questions.

Involve the people you love in your process. Talk to them about your attorney. About your plan. About your goals. About where things are. It doesn’t matter how organized you are; life happens in the most ridiculous of ways. Involve the other two cohorts above (spouse, beneficiaries) in the discussion early (as you plan) and often (as things change).  This is the single most important thing you can do, even above being organized. Because being organized may be helpful to you, but in the heat of the moment, it’s hard for people to think like you’ve thought and follow your logic — as organized as you think you are, if you haven’t tested your plan with the people on the other side, i assure you, it won’t be perfect.

Make sure your account lists are up-to-date. Make sure your key documents are easy-to-find. Make sure your usernames and passwords are available. Make sure none of this stuff is more than a year old.

In Daddy’s case, he spent a lifetime providing for everyone around him. He was better organized than most people I have spoken to about the same circumstances — but there’s always room to be better.

Lesson # 2: Think about the first 90 days after you’re gone. What’s the plan?

Most guidance on how to think about your death focuses heavily on what you have ready at the point of death. A will (for assignment), and trust (for added coverage and protections), a list of documents (for easy tracking of assets). The better you are on that front, amazing. But I don’t think it’s enough. Stop. Take a step back. What does the life of your spouse and your beneficiaries look like for the first 90 days after you’re gone. Who should they be working with? (Have they met before?) What things do they have to address immediately (Maslow’s hierarchy – house payments, healthcare, monthly bills, utilities, etc?) What do they have time to manage? I guarantee that if every person who reads this were to think of the first 90 days after they’re gone, and what their family has to address, the way we think about estate planning would change dramatically.

Perhaps the thing that gets left the furthest behind here is your interaction with the professionals managing your estate. Make sure your spouse and your beneficiaries know who those people are — humanize those relationships. Also, make sure you’ve worked with those professionals on their role in the estate during that first 90 days. If you don’t outline it upfront, your family will be taken for a ride. My father’s estate attorney was — terrible. The offensive way we were treated from the moment my father died up until this very moment is something to learn from. My advice to you is establish terms upfront. It’s amazing where and how people will try to make a dollar these days.

Lesson #3: It’s easier to remove someone from an account, than it is to add them.

Whatever can be joint, make joint. Whatever can have a beneficiary, designate two generations deep (spouse, children). It’s easier to remove someone from an account then it is to add them after the fact. If you have anything in one persons name, fix it. Either make the account joint (ideal, but there are tax considerations), designate a beneficiary, or designate someone clearly as the recipient and owner (will). Every. Single Account.

Lesson #4: Consolidate. Accounts. How you log in (usernames, not passwords). Where you receive statements. Where you store account information. And where all physical documents need to be.

I’m all for complex passwords; but keep your confirmations and registrations and logins from one email address. These provide a paper trail that make it easy to catch the things that slip through the cracks. Once a year spend an hour or so making sure all of your accounts are coming into one email address to help whoever gets access to your phone or laptop know how to find what they’re missing.

Lesson # 5: Try and avoid hierarchies.

Unless there are clear family dynamics at play, my recommendation is to avoid a hierarchical structure to the will. Instead of requiring certain people to take up work or relinquish rights, focus on “or” scenarios where rights can be easily transferred between people without requirement. For us, my Mumma and my Sis were designated as actors on the will before me: but I was the one who was going to do the work; things were delayed 2 weeks at least simply because we had to get the rights relinquished before I could do anything on our behalf.

It’s hard to give specific advice, but the spirit of the advice above should be helpful as a framework.

 

A Note to the Spouse

If you’re married to a person with the things, make sure you’ve thought about all I’ve outlined above. You have twice the responsibility: because you’re the person, and then you’re also a spouse of a person. For you, all of the above apply, plus…

Lesson #1: Everything is important. Not everything is urgent.

It’s incredible how helpful the state has been, the government has been, the financial institutions have been, the utilities have been. I once believed that the world loved no human being more than a pregnant women. Really. The world bends over backwards for a pregnant woman (as it should). I was happy to see that the world appears to do the same for a grieving family. You will not catch everything and trying to do so before it happens is not worth the stress. Do your best and as new things make their way to you as they inevitably will, don’t stress — simply share the truth.

Lesson #2:  Be honest about the role you will want to play.

This is the single most traumatic and life changing moment you will experience. There are very few people who will be able to make visits to banks and attorneys within the first month, if even after that. Make sure that the appropriate people in your life are around and designated to help with the administrative parts of the estate in the short-term while you get your bearings.

Lesson #3: Gain visibility.

Statements. Accounts. Assets. Titles. Anything. Make it a point to understand what is happening on a quarterly basis. Just make it a point and don’t settle for anything less.

Lesson #4: Define the plan.

As important as it is for the individual to define the first 90 days, it is equally important for you to think through those firs 90 days. Scenario plan. What are you ready for? What aren’t you ready for? Even a 20-30 minute exercise of thinking through what will happen in that environment will carry you far. If it helps, think less in terms of what happens when someone dies, and more in terms of: “what did I do the last 90 days, and what are the things that are being done for me?”

 

A Note to the Beneficiary

If you are a beneficiary, you may be in position to have the most work of anyone — you could be the individual in one case, the spouse in another, and, the beneficiary in yet another.

All of the above applies to you. But you have a few added steps to take.

Lesson #1: Be ready.

If your parents travel overseas, have your passport and VISA, ready. It’s simple. Do it.

Lesson #2: Double check your work.

If you know you’re going to be doing the work, you should be asking questions before it’s time for the work to be done. Make it your priority ahead of time as it will be your priority at some point in the future.

Lesson #3: Order your priorities, and acknowledge this will all take time.

Work your way through the urgent items according to Maslow. Acknowledge that new things will come up that were unexpected. And maintain your wits about you. Don’t change anything until you absolutely need. to. Don’t notify anyone until you absolutely need to. Give yourself the space to operate. It will make a difference.

Just My $.02

These are my thoughts and some of what I’ve experienced. Daddy was incredibly well organized but he couldn’t have planned for some of the things that happened even on his best day (being in India, selling an investment property the day before he died, having an attorney who was more focused on the next dollar than actually being of service.)

Note: I wrote a bunch of posts about my Daddy’s death that some have found helpful; either as they’ve gone through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to find ways to support others. You can find all those posts organized here.

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DADDY | JUST MONDAY or UNVARNISHED TRUTH

I’m good. I’m truly honestly and undeniably good. But, I wanted to share this because I think it’s the kind of thing that…more folks just need to know, or read, or share. Just because…good doesn’t mean purely good, there’s always an underlying truth. 🙂

Four times. Today. On four distinct, unique, unrelated moments, I’ve had tears stream down my face. Not a tear. Not a couple of tears. Not the kind of tears that are wiped away with the back of one hand swiftly, or hell, even slowly.

DAD | 5-21

Nope. Streams. The kind that form patterns on your face. Where one tear blazes a trail for others to then follow. Drops turn into flow, and it’s the kind of flow so smooth and so steady that even the greatest Nuyoricans would step back and hand you the mic.

That’s my face. But my face and my tearducts are a mere preview, a trailer. of the thoughts and memories. I’m rocking your polo right now. I got angry when something wasn’t in its right place earlier today. I got angry because it wasn’t. I then got mad at myself for being you. I then got sad because there was no (practical or physical) you. I ate eggplant and mushrooms almost as a rejection of your palate.

I struggled at work, really hard today, because I felt like there were objective truths that weren’t being acknowledged. And I found myself having a handful of very productive, unvarnished and fully honest conversations with people that were representative of your spirit (it’s not about me, it’s not about the idea, it’s about your contribution to the bigger, collective idea, that’s what will make the world move forward.)

And then…mom…your wife. 45 minutes between wrapping up dinner with Anu Kiran and Drinda Kay and closing her iPad and heading up to bed with your granddaughter (who still misses you so publicly and so potently), posted this pic.

And it’s just Monday.

And this photo, just says it all.

And you know, it all just sucks.

But we’ll also, just keep moving forward.

That’s, just life.

And I’m good. Just, good. I’m good.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for this polo. I’m going to sleep in it tonight.

Just…because.

I miss you and I love you, and … we’ll keep just doing our best to honor you.

PS – Make that five times. Once while writing this.

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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DADDY | “THANK YOU. FOR EVERYTHING.” or THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING

“Thank you. For everything.”

48 years. Culminating in four words. Whispered into one ear. Punctuated by a warm kiss. On the still frozen but rapidly thawing cheek. Of the eternal, undeniable love of her life. Before the doors to that ambulance closed. And their physical bodies said goodbye. Forever.

You want to talk about grace? You want to talk about dignity? You want to talk about honoring a legacy? You want to talk about strength?

Mom. Is incredible.

When I was conceived, my mother gave me strength by her own nourishment. When I was born, my mother gave me strength from her milk. When I was a fat kid with a short temper and a penchant for being ridiculed, she gave me strength through her love. When I was a barely competent high schooller, she gave me strength with her faith. When I was struggling at work, she gave me strength through her reinforcement. When I was struggling to find love, she gave me strength by her understanding. When I was struggling with peace and patience as a parent, she gave me strength with her time.

When I lost my Daddy, she gave me strength with her words and her example. Her final words to him as we pulled away in the ambulance toward the crematorium.

No “why did you leave us.” She thought it. She thinks it. I am sure.

No “what will we do.” She thought it. She thinks it. I am sure.

No “How will I go on.” She thought it. She thinks it. I am sure.

Just.

Thank you.

For everything.

“@#%&?! How is she doing this?”

Our truest self come out at our most vulnerable of moments.

Being grateful. Being thankful. That’s my mom’s truest self.

Thank you, Mom, for giving Anu KiranPriya KC Bhatt and I strength.

Yesterday we held a Celebration of Life ceremony for Daddy. Mom’s example. Her strength allowed us to make the ceremony about saying thank you to Daddy, for the people he influenced. But also, hopefully, everyone who was there, walked out feeling equally celebrated and thanked. They deserve it.

For 48 years, Family and friends showered our parents and our family with love and support. Bringing a lifetime of smiles to our faces. Helping Daddy leave this world at the height of happiness.

To all of you, there in spirit or in person, thank you for everything.

Life is only going to get more real. It’s not going to stop. It’s not going to get worse. It’s just going to get more real. More finite. Everything that happens now for me comes fully contextualized. As someone who enjoys storytelling, I say that before 2/4, life felt like it only had a beginning and a middle—I now know there’s an end. Not academically. Not an end I can’t empathize with because I’m in my early 20’s. An end that’s all too real because I’m in my 40’s and I’m a dad.

If I have any advice to give, it’s to work deliberately and urgently. Make use of photo albums. Not as a way to remember faces that are gone, but to add vivid back story to people who are here. Hug. Love. Celebrate. Talk to and about the people you love like you would if you knew you’d lost them, and then been granted that one last chance. Silly sh*t. Who cares. Do it.

Yesterday I asked honestly, what I’ve been asking for the past month: is it truly better to have loved and lost. I’ve been struggling with that. This pain is so exceptional, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s compounded by the simple fact of how much my parents loved each other. I sometimes wish now that they were less in love.

But that’s silly. It’s ignoring 48 years of life for what remains.

It is better to have loved and lost. Especially if you find someone who looks at you the way Daddy always looked at Mom.

DADDY | 3-6

Thank you, Mom. For your example and your strength.

Thank you, Family and friends, for your love and support.

And thank you Daddy…

…for always looking at Mommy this way.

We’ll be fine. I know we will. Because Mom said so.

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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DADDY | MEMORIAL SERVICE DETAILS or KISHORE KUMAR SAID IT BEST

“Zindagi ek safar hai suhana
Yahan kal kya ho kisne jaana”

Family, friends, incredibly supportive community members, we invite you to join us in celebrating the life of Kiran Chandrakant Bhatt.

>> Day & Time: Sunday, March 4th from 3-5:30/6
>> Location: The Indian Cultural Center in Marlton, NJ

His physical presence left us on February 4th, but only after he laughed heartily at videos of Anaiya and Jaan, his grandkids, after he told Anita, his daughter, how much he loved her, after he indulged in two (not one) ras gulas, after he took his typically brisk morning walk around his favorite place in the world, Ahmedabad, and after he returned home to be next to the eternal, undeniable, incredible love of his life, Renu.

He left us at the pinnacle of happiness. For all he has done for us, we are blessed. For how quickly and how painlessly he found peace, we are comforted.

We invite you to join us for a few bhajans, a few stories, and the opportunity to participate in saying not farewell, but thank you, for all the joy he brought us.

Love,
The Bhatt Family

“Arey o leiyo leiyo, oleiyo leiyo
Oleiyo leiyo, oleiyo leiyo
Oleiyo leiyo, oleiyo leiyo”

PS – Skip the sorrow, tears and flowers. If compelled, send smiles and support our way, and any financial contributions to The American Heart Association: https://donatenow.heart.org/

PPS – The song referenced in quotes above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wZDU-DDTOU

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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DADDY | EMBRACE IT or ON YOUR SHOULDERS

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.

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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.

Love you.

(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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DADDY | 12/40 or HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PRIYA

Today marks Day 12. 12 days since my Daddy left the physical world. Hinduism is incredibly ritualistic. I’ll leave it at that. But in essence, our family is using the next few days as a way to help my father’s soul find peace as it rises to the universal soul, while also slowly bringing an end to the mourning period at which point the family is supposed to more formally transition back to normal life.

Yeah. Thanks for the roadmap, Hinduism.

What I do love about the way we celebrate someone’s death is one key point: danam, which literally translates to gift or offering, but in the context of mourning and death rituals, it more spiritually means charity. Our family will travel to a local school for children facing physical and mental difficulties, and bring them a fun, healthy and indulgent lunch. 200 kids. My father spent his life serving people (family, friends, the community at large). For all the pujas, prayers, moments of silence, and fantastically colorful and sense overwhelming procedures, this is the single greatest thing we are doing to honor Daddy’s legacy and soul. This is the single greatest thing we can do to help him achieve universality (though he’s done more, with plenty leftover, to cover his journey and credit a world with what he has left over).

12. That’s the 12.

The 40? That’s my wife. She turns 40 today. You’ve heard me write, over and over again, that Daddy said out loud and often, that Priya is the single greatest thing to happen to me and to our family.

He knew his sh*t.

Today’s her birthday. A big milestone birthday. On the day that the celebration of my Daddy’s life moves from the inauspicious (mourning) toward the more auspicious (celebratory), I don’t find it to be any coincidence that we’re sharing this day with Priya’s 40th.

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She’s spent the past two weeks dealing with two kids, bouts of the flu, kids with nightmares, kids with 4am fevers, all while facing an incredibly demanding stretch at work, all while mourning and grieving for her Daddy too. And she’s done it with grace, dignity, huge smiles, and without missing a beat.

She spoke at an impromptu religious ceremony held by our community in South Jersey (what an amazing extended family, those friends we’ve known for 50 years in South Jersey) and carried the full thoughts and weight of our family on her shoulders, and delivered the kind of thank you that my Daddy would have raved about for years.

She made him proud. As she always did.

This is the woman whose vows to me during our legal ceremony 7+ years ago anchored in her promise that we will always be there for our family (collective). We didn’t know how soon or how often. But she’s never wavered.

The way she has handled the past 12 days is evidence and validation of Daddy’s earliest words to me about her: she’s the best thing.

12 days.
40 years.

12|40. Priya, you and Daddy are bonded together in eternity, in service and in the most celebratory and auspicious of ways. I smile wide today for that reason.

Hey, best thing. Happy Birthday. You make all life and love possible. Udabes. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for you. We all are.

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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DADDY | LOVE or THE INSANELY FINITE

The ability to feel love, is for all intents and purposes, eternal. You express it involuntarily from the moment you’re born, and you express it in whatever form possible for as long as you’re humanly capable. But the ability to show that love to someone, to extend it to the people you love, to know they feel it in return, is incredibly finite.

The ability to make someone feel loved is INsanely finite.

For today, for this Valentine’s Day, I hope you are motivated by the insanely finite in pursuit of the infinite.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful that I kissed my Daddy on the cheek every single time I saw him, and every single time I said goodbye. Including when I landed in India last week. My love for my father is infinite and will carry with me until my own last breath. My ability to say it to him directly, and to know that he has heard me, to make sure he knows he was loved, feels today, very much in the realm of the finite.

Love your family. Love your friends. Love the people around you. Not the way you want to love them, but the way they want to be loved. Love them not so you can say aloud that you expressed your love, but rather, so that someone very comfortably and very consistently and very clearly says “I know you love me.”

Love you all. I do. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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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DADDY| MY SIS or CREATING SPACE

My sis is my guardian angel. She always did everything at home, for my family, for our parents, so I could run off and explore the world. For 17 years, splitting time with my mom, she was the primary daily caretaker of my bedridden ba (grandmother). While I was off being a kid and a teenager, my sis went from 11yo to grownup overnight. With a daily list of responsibilities that filled the day, and reset at midnight. It wasn’t until she was approaching 30, when my ba passed away, that she was able to focus on herself. But at that point, life was in full swing. Work. Expectations. Society. My sis never had a childhood and she never had the chance to truly focus on herself later in life.

That’s what my Daddy wanted for her more than anything. For her to take that step back, find out how amazing she is, achieve her fullest potential as one of the sincerest and purest and most loving people the world has ever known. They had that discussion in December before my parents left for India, and even in January he was telling her “2018 is your year.”

The power of love, with family and with friends, puts the world’s most powerful force (love) against the most delicate of subjects (human feelings). What my Daddy and my Mumma have always wanted for my sister is what they believe is best for her. It didn’t always work for both sides. For all the mutual want, she never had the space or the opportunity or the impetus to create that space for herself when the world wouldn’t give it to her.

DADDY | 2-9

As we search for our “why” around all of this mess, Anu Kiran, I have found one that gives me peace. Daddy wanted to give you space in a way nobody else in the world could. The single thing that will make him the happiest (not would, but will, as this is not a past tense appreciation) is reading your note below, and watching you move forward with that torch firmly in hand.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the power and selflessness that the most powerful father/daughter bond I have known for my lifetime, has created. Godspeed, my angel. Godspeed.

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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