What I learned from my mother…

Our parents are our first teachers. We learn all of our basic functions from them. We learn and absorb our values and moral code from our parents. We go to them for all our questions. They are our idols. However, as we grow up we change and begin to view our parents in a more critical light. We sometimes forget the beginnings. But, the early lessons always leave their imprint and we are able to go back to the beginning.

When my Mother passed away a month ago, I lost the person who believed the most in me. I lost not only my biggest cheerleader but someone who understood me inside out. She has inspired me with her grit and courage in facing life’s challenges.

It has been a long month since my mother’s death. The final rites have been performed to help my mother’s soul in its journey onward to the other world. In Hindu tradition, we also offer food to the soul every month as we believe that every earth month is a day in the other world. It is hard to accept that I will not be able to see her any more. She will live on forever through the love and care that she gave to her family every day of her life.

Born to a Shakespearean scholar and a homemaker in their mid-fifties, as the last of 6 siblings, she was considered extremely lucky with 4 older brothers who doted on her. However, my mother suffered tragedy early in life losing all of her brothers by age 16 to unexpected illnesses. She was married to my father at the age of 17 and later finished her college degree. She was blessed with three daughters. She raised us to believe that we could accomplish anything we wanted. While everyone around us believed that finding a good husband was more important than anything else for a young woman, she encouraged me to develop and achieve my professional dreams. My mother’s high expectations of me made me set high goals for myself. For this, I am highly indebted to both of my parents.

My mother always took the time to help those in need. A construction worker who was illiterate asked for her help in keeping his money safe. She knew that she needed to do more to help him and his family. So, she took it upon herself to teach his wife Papamma and young kids to read and write over the course of a year. The children went on to become nurses and computer operators. Their lives changed forever. Countless people who learned from her were weeping at her funeral.

My Mother was not ritualistic as a follower of the Hindu religion. She did not light a lamp everyday or recite mantras according to traditions. However, she believed in a supreme power and spent most of her time reading philosophical books like ‘Narasimha Sathakam” and “Ashtavakra Gita”. She had deep knowledge on Vedanta and I spent many a conversation simply discussing Hindu Vedantic concepts. This has helped me deal with life with a more philosophical viewpoint.

My mother took the road less traveled in life. She faced major challenges and withstood them unfazed. By the time I was a teenager, we lost my father to a cruel illness. We did not have the support of extended family as we lived in Chennai away from our relatives. Thrust into a new role as a single parent, my mother managed the entire responsibility of supporting her daughters and arranging their marriages, with poise and with sound management of finances.

My Mother was courageous in life and in facing death.. My Mother survived several near-death experiences. However, she passed away when I least expected. Although she did not have serious health issues, she knew that death was imminent. On her last day, she was going about as usual when she felt extremely uneasy. She knew then that she was going to die and she told my sister as such. In the traditional Hindu tradition, she lay down with her head facing Southward. Within minutes she was gone.

The most significant lesson I have learned from my mother is to live life and face challenges without fear and what ifs. She served as my guiding light from the beginning to the end. Although I will miss her every day, her teachings and philosophy and unconditional love will remain with me forever to guide me through life.