Sunday, May 31, 2015


On Tuesday Sari Bari said goodbye to another one of our heroes.

Shandhya passed away at 4:30 in the afternoon. She had a stroke in February, and has her recovery was complicated, and slow. Then she had a second stroke in May. We have been saying a slow goodbye to Shandhya for the past 4 months. So I was not surprised on Tuesday to get the news that she had passed away.

I've often said that in some ways Sari Bari is at its best in crisis. And I have seen that, once again, in this long slow goodbye. I observed as women from Sari Bari would go visit Shandhya. As they would say their goodbyes. I would hear their observations, and their deep love for Shandhya. I was given the gift of glimpsing this situation through their eyes. I heard their words of comfort, and their reflections on their friend, co-worker, and sister. I heard their love for her. In the midst of a situation that was far from ideal, we were given the gift of time to visit, the gift of saying goodbye, and the gift of getting to express our love to Shandhay one more time.

I have felt deeply conflicted during these 4 months. I have, at times felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for Shandhya (even though my responsibility was limited. Her son and daughter in law were caring for her). I have felt angry, that the systems didn't work well enough to care for her the way i wished they would have. I have felt angry that she was suffering these past 4 months.  Simultaneously, i was given the gift of sitting next to her and stroking her hair, and being present with her. I was given the gift of walking into the the hospital room and saying, "oh sister, your moshumi is here." I got to sing over her, and pray peace over her.

And then Tuesday. Funerals are always hectic. They are times where we "hurry up and wait." We wait for the body to be released from the hospital. And then we go to the ghats (where cremation happens). And we wait some more. And then there are rituals, and the cremation begins. And we wait. Sitting on the steps outside the crematorium while my friend's body is returned to dust. Nothing reminds you of mortality like waiting on the steps while someone you love is cremated. And then we bathe in the river (or are sprinkled with the water).

It was a long night (it always is). and we always stay until it's finished. On Tuesday i felt a little crazy though. Sitting there on the steps at 12:30am. i thought, am i just being unnecessarily stubborn waiting until its finished? Couldn't we go home? haven't we stayed long enough? But i just couldn't leave. I couldn't do it. At my core i didn't want to. And then, the peace of the river at night, watching her family together. There is just something so powerful about the rituals and process. The direct transition and contradiction between the chaos of the crematorium and the peace and possibility of the river at night. We always stay until it is finished.

I know this post is scattered. probably because there's too much to write in one post. But i will finish here. By remembering. by honoring my dear sister. My hero, Shandhya.

Tuesday afternoon, when we got the news, We gathered together. And remembered Shandhya. We sat together in the office, as we always do. and remembered. We remembered how faithful she was. She came to work every day. Every day. That is what i remember of Shandhya. Her slow and steady hands. Her faithful presence. She was like a hidden flower. If you've been to Sari Bari, you most likely won't remember her. There are other women that will make you laugh and will catch your attention, women who are bold and the "characters" at Sari Bari. But Shandhya, you wouldn't notice her. you would miss her quiet strength and steadiness - until you had the eyes, patience, and time to see her. And then you would see the most amazing woman. She would give us a hug everyday on her way out of the office, always the last to walk down the stairs. our quiet, faithful, beautiful, strong Shandhya.

Peace be with you.
As all things are made new,
as what was begun has now been carried onto completion
May the peace, that largely escaped you in this life, enfold you in deep rest now
May deep love wash over you.
We remember you.

No comments: