by guest writer Uma Girish
When my 68-year-old mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, not one among the many gods in her Hindu altar reversed her fate. In a short period of eight months, her cancer cells won the battle.
My mother’s faith had always been as sturdy as an oak tree. None of the storms that whipped through her life—my father’s alcoholism, his road accident and brain injury, my sister’s broken engagement, and deaths of family members—could shake that faith.
Now, she had become the cosmic target. It seemed like a joke. I imagined her gods chuckling. Let’s see if this one finally breaks her faith. Well, she continued to pray till the very end. Clearly, she had the last laugh.
Through her illness, she woke up every morning and chanted her Sanskrit mantras.
She rang her sacred bell and performed rituals.
She waved incense sticks and decorated her altar with fresh jasmine and marigolds.
Even if she remained calm, and committed to her faith, I was mad that God had turned a deaf ear to her pleas.
This is a common experience, the sense of separation from the Divine that we experience when the foundation of our human lives is shaken up.
Where is God in my grief, we cry out. At a time when we most need to cleave to Spirit, our spirits are broken and we feel abandoned.
And yet, sitting in the roaring fire of grief, we are burned, stripped and laid bare. It is in the purification of our souls that we connect with the Divine all over again.
It takes time, this reunion.
I was angry for a long time. I was empty. I was broken open. But it was through those cracks that pieces of light found their way back into the dark spaces of my heart.
Angry as I was, there was also a deep yearning in me, a desire for divine connection—because nothing in my human experience offered a shred of relief in the landscape of loss.
Trained to seek answers and master life, we are brought to our knees by death.
Death is the unknowable.
Death is the great mystery.
Death cannot be figured out.
It occurred to me that all of this is true of the Divine as well. That glimmer of insight was my moment of awakening.
The love I was held in by those who traveled with me down the rocky road of loss convinced me that God wasn’t too far away. Grace found me in so many ways—a stranger’s smile, a word of warmth, a heartfelt hug. These sacred moments of connection expanded me.
When my mother’s death splintered my ego, my inherent divinity surfaced. It was the unfolding of a sacred embrace. Every one of the gods in my mother’s altar waited patiently, for they knew that one day I would return home.
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