I couldn’t believe. I called Fr James at the Cathedral (a friend priest from Kochi, India) to come to Calwell presbytery and to verify the news. He verified the news. I cried. We did an “office for dead” at Calwell presbytery chapel.
It happened after lunchtime at Bahrain and was evening in Kochi. I instructed not to break this news to my aging parents that night and managed to get into a flight to Kochi. It was the most difficult thirteen hours of plane journey in my life. I prayed that my sister-in-law gets enough courage to bring Lalson’s body from Bahrain to Kochi, with his children. I reached on same day evening and the funeral was planned for next day evening.
When the news broke, it was devastating for my parents. My mother had to be taken to the hospital.
According to our customs (Syro-Malabar Catholic rite), the first part of the funeral ceremony is celebrated at the family house and then the body is taken to the church and then to the cemetery. It is more of a personal and communal event. There were around 1500 people gathered for the funeral including more than 50 Carmelite priests and nuns. It was an honour for me to officiate his funeral ceremony. But I could do it only with extra-ordinary grace and courage from above.
An official memorial service was conducted on the 7th day of death, according to our tradition. The Syro-Malabar curia bishop – Mar Bosco Puthur officiated that Memorial Mass and it was followed by a solemn vegetarian lunch (Sadya) for all 600 special invitees. I remained with my parents and the family of Lalson for the next 30 days, listening to their stories, sharing our grief and observing a fast with abstinence of non-vegetarian food and entertainments. I officiated a Holy Mass on the 30th day with my family and close relatives to mark the end of that fasting period.
A very special thanks to the parish community and Frs John and Peter who supported and prayed for my family and me all throughout these difficult times. It helps me to find new meaning in the mysterious ways of the plan of God in my life.
- Published in the PM magazine of Corpus Christi parish, Tuggeranong, ACT, Australia