I like to share stories like this one because we hear so many which are hopeless and sad and life-denying. It’s important to celebrate family strength, loyalty and devotion when we see it because God knows we need inspiration these days.

Elderly Indian woman in profileMy friend Deepa’s mother has cancer. She is an amazing woman and I have always known it. It was evident – always –  in her constant cheerfulness, her inability to dwell on the negative and her constant desire to focus on the good. This was, of course, before terrible things began to happen to her, but, looking back, I can see that she was practicing even then.

She was practicing fortitude and courage and the gift of finding happiness in even the most unlikely corners. I saw it first when she lost her husband to his own cancer – a long and painful battle which he too dealt with courageously and without self-pity. After his death, she picked up the pieces and rebuilt her life, becoming even more essential and precious to her children, grandchildren and friends than she already was.

She was dependable in the most astonishing way: you just knew that she would always have a kind word, a smile, an encouraging presence. She radiated acceptance and welcome.

When her cancer was diagnosed a few short months ago, a lifetime of giving suddenly turned back on itself to embrace her. Her children, her grandchildren, her daughter and son-in-law, her lifelong friends – they all leaped forward at the chance to do something – at last! – for her.

Nothing is too much. Everything is a joy. If it helps her get through this ordeal, it is worth it. I am awestruck at the tightness of this family, at their kindness and tender regard, at the lengths to which they will go to hold her up and share her suffering. They have all put their own lives on hold, given up their plans, changed their stories – all for her.

When I point it out to them, though, their answer is always the same: It’s nothing compared to what she has done for all of us.

What she has done. What she has done is to bring up three amazing people in their own right, to inspire their partners and their children, to delight her friends and to offer the world an example of selfless love.

It has come right back to her in an endless flow of devotion and care and compassion. We don’t see justice often enough. This is justice. This is what fair looks like; this is how a good life should be rewarded.

Other families can aspire to this kind of devotion. I’m watching it play out in front of my eyes and I still can scarcely believe it. But I know in my bones that this love didn’t come out of nothing. This is a love which has grown and been nurtured for nearly eighty years. I am paying close attention. We will all come to this – or something like it – eventually.

The only thing that will save us is love.





Showing 3 comments
  • Rebecca Morris-Chatta

    Thank you, Jo, for writing so beautifully about Mummy. You know her so well. I am glad you mentioned Papaji, because I believe that together, Mummy and Papaji were ‘eck jhot’ one soul (I hope I translated this correctly) – one unconditionally accepting and loving soul that brought us all into an embrace that has kept us this together through all of life’s trials. How lucky we are to have had them in our lives.

  • Sharon Morris

    Thank you for posting this. She and I share three wonderful granddaughters, who are lucky to have her as a role model.

  • Deepti Ganapathy

    Saw this today. Beautifully written. I met aunty two months ago in Delhi, and though she was quite ill, she never let it show. The few hours that i spent with her, she made it only about me, enquiring about my welfare, reminiscing good times with Naaz aunty which made the atmosphere so positive. I went back thinking wow…my generation has a lot to learn, inspite of all the luxuries we have we are still cribbing and dissatisfied with our career paths, country, etc, etc…The lines ‘her family have put their lives on hold’ is so true-especially her doting grandchildren who were always around their ‘naani’ offering her fruits and tea. I will always cherish those few hours i spent with her and also a toast the friendship of her and Naaz aunty.

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