As my friends in India celebrated the festival of Diwali last week, I was reminded of my trip there and the amazing people who helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life.
I traveled to Kerala in August with the intention of staying for the whole month. I was there to experience an Ayurvedic treatment called Panchakarma, a healing therapy for detoxifying the body and strengthening the immune system. Unfortunately, God had other plans.
A few days after I arrived, I received word from my mother that my father had been admitted to hospital. I was in total shock. I had just spent a week with him at his nursing home and he seemed fine. Well… fine is an exaggeration, I suppose. He had Alzheimer's and had recently been diagnosed with skin cancer. But, he was clear and happy that week. It was such a good visit.
To make a long story short, I was thousands of miles away from home and my sweet, lovely dad was dying. After a pile of tests, he was diagnosed with a bowel blockage which aspirated into his lungs and turned into pneumonia. And, within 48 hours, he was gone. My funny, gregarious, loving dad had passed and I was in India. It was the most surreal thing I have ever experienced.
Over the next few days, I spent time with some lovely people while I waited for my flight home. Although they had just met me, they treated me like family. They listened to my stories, prayed, laughed and cried with me, took me to visit beautiful temples, walked with me through the rice paddies, took me on a search for peacocks at 5am, and generally kept me company. And, on a trip to Palakaad, we shared some laughs. They just knew what to do to comfort me.
A few days after dad passed, we planted a tree in the Ayurvedic garden. Although we spoke four different languages, English, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam, we chanted a beautiful Sanskrit mantra together while we planted. The gardeners shared with me that they had specifically chosen a mangosteen tree for its significance. It is known as the "queen of fruits" for its healing properties. As I look back on the pictures from that day, I am also reminded of how somber they were as we planted. I will never forget their sheer humanity and kindness in that moment.
Despite the fact that Diwali has ended, I wanted to send this blessing out to them and all of you. It was shared with me by one of the beautiful people I met on that journey and it is something I wish for every day.
"May this Diwali light up new dreams, fresh hopes, undiscovered avenues, different perspectives, everything bright and beautiful, and fill your day with pleasant surprises and moments."