A Giant of a ManApr 11, 2023
I have unfortunately experienced a lot of death and loss in my life, but nothing really prepares you for the passing of a parent, and then the passing of your remaining parent. No matter how old you are or how old your parent is when they pass over to the Spirit side of life, it is a deeply emotional, heart-wrenching experience. The rawness experienced in the loss of a parent can be unexpected; like a gaping wound, your vulnerability, like the softness of the flesh, is inescapable.
My Dad, Harkrishan Singh Bhogal, passed away on April 11th 2022 from complications with Covid. He was the grand old-age of 92, having lived a very long and mostly very healthy life, it was hard for everyone to hear, but as his daughter, it was very difficult to endure. As I mourn the loss of both parents now, I feel unmoored and orphaned in this world.
My Dad, ‘a Giant of a man’, as one of my friend’s very aptly described him, was in Malaysia when he passed, his final trip. He had been an avid traveler his whole life, his great passion to see the world had materialized; he made it happen and like transference through osmosis, all of his children and grand-children, inherited the same passion. The last time I saw my Dad, he had asked me to arrange for him to go to Malaysia on my British Airways concession, but my sister had made other arrangements so that he could travel safely, accompanied.
My sister Kieran, my dad, and me.
I flew many times and to many places with my Dad. My first flight was from Nairobi to London as a baby, and then to places far and wide. In the 70’s, in typical fashion, my Dad would travel in style, with my Mum and various members of the family. He carried a dark reddish-brown briefcase with gold clasps. It was one of those hard-shell combination briefcases (I still remember the combination!). All of the paper tickets and passports, travel documents, and immunization records would be safely stored within. My Dad would always dress really well for Travel, even on his final trip, he had tied a new turban, and was wearing silver cufflinks and a colorful tie. Dad was from another era, another time, another generation, and part of the sadness of his loss is the feeling that it is the end of that Era.
Reminiscing with siblings and cousins, we remember the ‘Good old days’ when we were new immigrants in the UK and how close we were because of the effort our parents made to ensure that they and we had a sense of community. They needed the support of extended family, and a network of people to rely on. Just like their parents who had traveled from India to East Africa and worked hard to create community in their new location, our parents did the same in England. It wasn’t always easy or pleasant, but they worked relentlessly to make it better for us, their children.
I deeply mourn the loss of tradition, of community connection, of language. I mourn the loss of customs and the thought and care which went into the lives of our parents, all of which dies with them when they leave this earth plane. Against all the odds, they created their world in England, their perfectly imperfect world, and although we all have to accept change as inevitable, I am so grateful for knowing the richness of my parent’s world.
Big vats of homemade ghee, garam masala, saag, achar and Panjeeri, the Punjabi staples that kept us healthy and fed throughout the damp seasons of England. Whether you were a child, a visitor to their home, ill or a new Mother, the wisdom and knowledge of my parents’ generation sustained everyone, literally and metaphorically.
I will miss my Dad’s strange dathan in the bathroom for brushing teeth, his pot of tiger balm on his bedside table and Dr Barburao Patel’s remedies on the shelf. Potions, plants and spices to heal and soothe. I will miss him saying his Prayers in front of the picture of Guru Nanak hanging in the stairwell. I will miss hearing the reel-to-reel tape player he kept in his room, and eventually the Sony boom box playing Indian songs and shabads so loud that it drowned out the next-door neighbor’s barking dog and piano playing.
I will miss my Dad’s excitement when arranging the next family holiday, his Labour Party posters in the living room window, his enthusiasm for voting on polling day, and his daily constitutional walks with our neighbor Dr Bhel. I will miss him racing with his brother down the M1 on the way back from a wedding in Birmingham, and his work-desk at the Civic Center on Lampton Road where he proudly displayed embarrassing pictures of us, his family… everyone knew us. All of these memories are like portals into that other world which becomes more and more distant each day.
The 6 yards of muslin in various colors, that my Dad would tie around his head to create his turban, his hair in a top-knot secured with his kangha. His ‘fifty’ to neaten the look. My Mum would regularly buy boxes of Robin’s starch and spend a whole day washing and stiffening the muslin, so that it would stay in place when my Dad did his magic.
I remember vividly, standing in the garden at Heston, and helping him with his turban. The procedure of splashing the clean and starched material with water. Then holding two corners, my Dad at the other end, we would stretch the fabric, its warp and wheft giving way, pulling one corner then the other. Next came the folding technique, folding in three times and then creating a narrow fold, and then folding in sections to manage the turban while wrapping it. It is likely that I will never again smell the scent of starch being boiled in the steel pathila (pot), or see my Dad with one corner of the fabric in his mouth as he deftly wrapped his head to create the perfect ‘East-Africa’ style pugh.
The vivid memories of my uncle Tari Mamaji visiting from Africa or on his way to India. It was the occasion when Dad’s whiskey bottle would come out, and to accompany this, the cubes of cheese splashed with tabasco as ‘biting’. Then they would devour the special feast my Mum would make from scratch in her kitchen after a full day’s work, she treasured those visits as did all of us.
The family weddings, birthdays, new babies, deaths... the rituals, the merriment, the tears. The stories and traditions slowly fading away into the silvery mists of time. All of this is experienced as loss, tasting bitter-sweet.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that my Dad and I didn’t always have a smooth relationship. My Dad was one of my greatest teachers in life. Our tumultuous relationship taught me many things: to stand up for myself, to fight against injustice, to be honest and one of the most important lessons was acceptance. I was very fortunate to be able to recognize the challenges of our relationship and that I could be responsible for changing the dynamic, to bring myself peace.
Through many years of self-reflection, therapy, and healing work, I was able to mend the brokenness and reach a place of internal peace. The last few years of Dad's life were spent in this space of peace. My Dad and I accepted each other in the end. I was able to accept who he was in his wholeness without judgement. This was such a gift in my life, one of the greatest and most treasured, and because of it, I can say that I am at peace with my Dad; I can honor and remember him with fondness.
Infinitely grateful in my heart and soul for the lives lived and breathed through the bodies of my parents. The beautiful innocent young souls who did the best they could, making castles out of insubstantial dirt, creating the great ballad of their lives whose rhyme and rhythm will be heard in years to come through the voices of their great grand-children.
My heart is heavy, but my soul is full, and now my sisters and I have the task of rising up to take up the rich and substantial mantle of my parents. To it we will add our tales and songs, which I pray, will be loved and remembered through the annals of time.
My mum and dad on their wedding day.
Sending a wish and a prayer to Spirit to hear the story of my beautiful and beloved parents, told through the voice of a blessed Medium. Or for them to come to life in my dreams in the dead of night where their color and shape and voice become vivid once again, and we can smile and hug once more. All this a mystical gift, which bridges our temporary separation, until we meet again on the other side of this mystery called life.
Mediumship is a wonderful tool to help you connect with loved ones in the Spirit world. If you’d like to learn more about Mediumship in developing your own practice or receiving a Mediumship session to connect with past loved ones, click here to learn more and book a session with me. It’s my greatest honor to hold space for those feeling called to Mediumship and wanting to connect with loved ones in the Spirit realm.
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