I’ve always been a believer in ‘ask the universe for what you want and you’ll get it’. I asked. One thing I’ve always asked for was that moment when “life as I know it ceases to exist”. I expected it to be positive. After all, in the movie it was after their first kiss. What I didn’t know is that the universe has a seriously sick sense of humour.
Date: 27th December 2018
Location: Planet Earth. A little community in the Sierra near Madrid, Spain.
A phone rings.
A call which was my “life as you know it ceases to exist” moment. It said my mum was no more. She was chatting with me a few hours before and then she was gone. Just like that. No adieu. No last whispered “I love you”. Just severe pain and she was gone. All that was left was a gaping hole in our lives that will never be filled.
For the first time in years, the entire Delacroix family came together. Even the Galleli family joined in. Young and old, everyone pitched in to give her the farewell she deserved. To get the rituals of the following days going while we daughters scrambled to get to India. A mad rush to keep people fed, functional and healthy while obeying all formalities and traditions. All this while processing this momentous event. Shock, grief and several WHYs were written on every persons’ face.
Then came the stories. People I didn’t know breaking down at the sight of her embalmed cadaver. Recounting how she was instrumental in them finishing school and getting higher education they couldn’t afford. Stories of how she taught more than the subject, how she shaped the character of generations of kids. Tales of kindness, generosity and helpfulness towards her colleagues and the school management. Thirty-nine years as a teacher in the same school. Yes, she shaped more than one generation.
Then came the neighbours. Adults who lost their closest friend. Many who lost their “shoulder to cry on”. Kids crying because they no longer had a tuition teacher. Yes, even after retiring she started teaching the underprivileged kids in the colony. Brothers from the local SVD home came in. She attended mass there and then gave them classes. Elderly whom she fed regularly, colony buddies that she went on walks with, nuns from a local noviciate. They referred to themselves as her daughters. Acquaintances, distant and near. They just kept coming.
A young girl came home. Eyes dry, but heart in mouth, she retold of how 5 minutes advice from my mum encouraged her to choose sports as a career since studies weren’t really her thing. How she still gave her seat up to elders when using public transport. How mum didn’t just teach her students “subject matter”, but instilled concern, morals, values and propriety.
Her comments on styling. Her singing at funerals (even funerals of people she didn’t know in life). Her unselfishness in giving all 3 of her girls wings. Her generosity. Her kindness. Her willingness to forgive. Her desire to see the family united. Her sumptuous banquets. Her eagerness to dance. Her zest for life. None of it went unremarked.
That bit I knew of. What I didn’t know is how many children and adults she had educated. How many people owe their careers to her. How many families she brought together. So many stories of “she paid my fees”, “she got me a concession”, “she bought all the supplies”, “she raised funds for the church”, “she got us our rations for the month”, “she put in a recommendation”, “she paid for my wedding”, “she helped me marry the woman of my dreams”, “she helped us reconcile our family”. She gave money but more than that she listened to one and all. She gave time and hope. It’s almost like my mum had a secret identity that none of us knew of. She’d take off her glasses and use her well pleated sari pallo as a cape and suddenly she was “Bernie: the miracle-worker, the hope-giver, the love-enabler”!
December 27 2018
Carpets of the richest red being rolled out. Angels scurrying to don their whitest gowns.
Lyres and harps sound.
The song of the seraphim and the cherubim fills the air. The pearly gates open, trumpets sound and the herald announces “Bernie Delacroix”. And in one voice they call out loud and clear “Hallelujah she’s home!”
No more aching knees. Or strain to read. No more pain and above all, no more heartache.
The faith she had, and tried to instil in us, paints me this picture.
Mum dressed to a tee, taking selfies with the apostles. Doing cross stitch with the Virgin Mary. And singing to her heart’s content in that inimitable, loud, soulful bass.
This is the image I’m going to hold on to when I miss her. When I miss her good morning messages and the photos of her latest “salad art” or her garden. When I miss the afternoon conversations and the planning sessions on where and what she’d like to see. When I miss her complaining about no-one visiting her. When I miss her little “I went shopping” or “I was out partying” messages hours after she missed my call. When the group doesn’t have her “get yourself to church” reminders along with her photo dressed in her Sunday best. When I post on FB and she doesn’t comment. When I miss taking her hand in mine while we roam the shops or explore a new town. When I’m in need of prayers. When I long for the taste of her coriander chicken, biryani or omelettes & chapati. When I go home for Christmas and the house is much darker despite the fairy lights strung all around.
She’s looking down from above right now. Probably upset at herself for all the heartache we are going through. Glad that she brought us together though.
Say a prayer for us, my angel.
The hope is that one day, we will meet up. But while I’m down here, the goal will be to get to be half the woman you were, Mommy Bernie Delacroix
You are loved and missed.