On a beautiful August day, a lovely little baby girl was born to George Patrick Joseph and his wife Mary at Kargali in Jharkhand. She was named Margaret and the patter of her little feet brightened the lives of her doting parents and her two older brothers George and Richard. She grew up in a loving household surrounded by her brothers and her younger siblings, John, Janet and Marie who followed soon after.
This adorable little girl soon grew up, studied at St. Joseph’s Convent, and later on joined as a boarder at St. Xavier’s College, Patna in 1959. She graduated with honours in 1962. She started teaching at St. Xavier’s School in Ranchi, Jharkhand and thus began a great career in teaching which spanned over a period of 45 years. Her work experience included working and teaching in Christian Minority Educational Institutions in Nepal, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Baroda, and Chennai.
In 1964, she met the love of her life, Victor, my darling Dad. I was born in 1966 to this wonderful couple followed by my dear brother Mike in 1968. Dad and Mom loved to travel and we’d bundle up in Dad’s Herald and head off on some great adventure. My brother and I always felt this way before a car journey. The food used to be awesome. We still have vivid memories of sitting down in some huge mango orchard and wolfing down small ripe mangoes and also a rather scary memory of playing with a scorpion.
I remember travelling to other cities like Jamshedpur and Baroda between 1969 and 1978 and growing up in schools where my mother taught, as always. My parents decided to settle down in my Dad’s native place, Chennai in 1979. Both my brother and I joined St. Michael’s Academy where my mother (you guessed it!) also taught. Mom became the headmistress of the Junior Section in due course because of her diligent hard work. She was much appreciated by the staff and teachers at school. As one of the senior teachers told me when I called to invite her for my mum’s memorial service, “I’ll always remember her smiling face. She was always smiling. Always!”
Mom had lots of hopes and dreams. Armed with a B.A. (Hons) in English, a Montessori (I.M.I) diploma and a B. Ed (MS University, Baroda), she decided to put into full effect, her vast teaching experience. In 1986, she introduced her third baby (As dad said so aptly) into this world and “St. Marks Nursery and Primary School” was born. It was started with a handful of students, and two teachers, with the sole aim of providing a strong foundation to all children, irrespective of their background. The School, a ‘home away from home’, is located in Gandhi Nagar, a quiet residential neighbourhood, in Adyar, Chennai with its own shaded playground area. My Dad has been associated with the School since his retirement from service in 2001 and is in charge of the administration of the school. This is the place I have always called “home”. I lived and grew up here until I got married and moved away. This place holds some of my happiest memories for me and also my three children.
Mom suffered devastating losses in her journey through life. She lost her father at a young age and her mother to cancer. She also lost her oldest brother George to a heart attack and her second brother Richard, to cancer. Despite this, she played her role of wife, mother, sister, grandmother, teacher and guide to the hilt.
So, the years passed and my Mom became a grand mom and what a loving, generous, doting grand mom she was! I have loads of pictures of her playing with my kids and especially feeding them in her special unique way. As a kid I remember Mom feeding my brother and myself in the exact same way. She’d have this big stainless steel plate piled up with food and with both of us on either side. She’d tell us stories and subtly but surely make sure we’d finish our meal. I did the same thing with my kids.:-)
Mom, however, suffered a heart attack in 2005. Her left ventricle was damaged and her heart efficiency reduced over the years. A stroke in 2010 seemed to have slowed her down considerably but she admirably worked the way she used to but with a little bit of caution thrown in. In the last year before her death, her heart efficiency had reduced to 35% and she had to make several visits to the hospital. She’d always come back and head right back to work. Work soothed her. She was completely at peace surrounded by her beloved students, her loyal teachers and of course, her darling husband by her side.
Mom was most miserable when she was advised by the doctor to “take it easy”. She missed her daily conversations with the teachers and the parents with whom she shared a wonderful rapport. When she was given the go ahead to start working again but at a slower pace, she was ecstatic. I remember our conversation when she said, “Doctor told me that I can work again. This keeps me going and makes me happy. I hate lying around doing nothing.” She was so happy. It makes me smile thinking about that talk we had.
Mom lost her battle with heart disease and I lost my darling mother on the 10th of October 2011 at 9:30 a.m. She died of congestive heart failure. I had booked my tickets to Chennai on the 11th to be present for her bypass surgery which was scheduled for the following week. I did not know at that time that I would never hear her beloved voice again, nor see her kind twinkling eyes or that brilliant smile light up her face again. I reached her one day after she died. I was told that the end was peaceful and that there was no pain. I thank God for that.
How do you ever say goodbye to a loved one who is no longer with you? The thing is, you can’t! They are always with you…in your thoughts, in most of the things you do and those lingering memories invade your mind…sometimes soothing you and sometimes devastating you with their sheer vividness.
You try to get past the “if only...”, the “what if…?”, the “I wish..”, the “how could this…?, the “It’s just not possible…”, the “my god, it just can’t be true.”, the “how do I go on?”, the “will things ever get better?”. The more I asked these questions, the more helpless I felt. There ARE no answers!! The only thing you CAN do is go on without the physical presence of your loved one. At first it’s hard when the memories come rushing in and fill up your mind. The hardest thing is the reality that I will never see my beautiful, kind and loving mom again, at least not in this lifetime. I am comforted by the idea that mom would want us all to go on with our lives and become whole individuals again.
Mom died as she had lived. Bravely and with hope in her heart! My dad said to me “She was a very brave girl.” She really was!
She was a wonderful wife to my Dad, a loving Mother to my brother and me, a generous, doting Grandmother, a sweet, caring mother-in-law, and a source of comfort to her brothers and sisters. She left an aching void when she left us and nothing seems be the same with her passing. I do know that we can soften the blow by getting on with our lives and keeping ourselves busy.
My mother brightened up so many lives and inspired so many people in countless ways. I was astounded at the number of people who turned up to pay their last respects to my mother who lay in eternal rest. These people stood there in silence with disbelief in their eyes as they contemplated this beautiful human being with her eyes closed for all eternity still with a smile on her lips.
While I was in Chennai for 3 months following my mother’s death, I met so many people who, with tears in their eyes spoke of my mother’s kindness and generosity. Many were grateful for the hand she played in moulding their children’s lives. Some even went on to say that she was like a mother to them and that they would confide in her. I have this to say to all of you who feel this way. YES! She was motherly and very kind and you are lucky if you knew her and your lives are the better for it. She is also lucky that she knew you. I am grateful for all the people who touched her life as profoundly as she touched theirs. I am grateful to everyone who was a great source of comfort to her. I thank the rest of my family who have been such a support to my Dad, my brother, and me through this heart wrenching time in our lives. My husband and my kids, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who all felt this tragedy deeply; to you I would like to say that you are not alone in your grief. We’ll all get through this together, with hope in our hearts and the comforting knowledge that there will be better times ahead!
Mom would have wanted that!
I LOVE YOU, AND MISS YOU TERRIBLY MOM! YOU ARE ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS AND I KNOW WITH COMPLETE CERTAINTY THAT WE WILL MEET ONE DAY AND THIS BROKEN CHAIN WILL LINK AGAIN!
YOU ARE FOREVER LOVED!
In writing this, a thought comes to mind.
Time eases the brutal force of memories and filters only the ones that make us smile.
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