April 24, 2023
I had returned to my country of work after a month-long vacation at my parents’ home. On the third day, I received his call. He was not my best friend. I knew him well enough through friends’ circles. We had bumped into each occasionally. At times, he could be insistent and annoying. That made me uncomfortable. He would keep me engaged when I am in a hurry to escape. These were my cringe-worthy moments. Nevertheless, we were hardly in touch over the phone other than his WhatsApp messages. Hence, when I saw his number, a puzzled look came across my face.
“Hello… I want your help,” He pleaded.
“What happened?” I enquired curiously.
“My father’s funeral… Mostly day after tomorrow evening,” He sounded distraught.
“Sorry to hear this. My condolences. I will pray for your father,” I offered my sympathy.
“I am devastated,” He sobbed. “You may not be aware of this. We had lost our mother when I was very young. I was just three-year-old. My father single handedly raised seven children with utmost love and care. When I think of my father’s affection and sacrifice, my eyes fill with tears. On the contrary, what did the children do for him? Nothing. They abandoned him with the excuse of building their careers and families. He was left in loneliness in an old age home.”
“I can understand your emotions.”
“I do not know the plans of my siblings. I do not care. I want to arrange a perfect funeral for my father. Whatever my siblings say, I will not back out from the cost. Money is not the issue. If they refuse to pay, I will bear all the expenses. I want to make my father proud and happy. His soul should rest in peace. That is my only objective.”
“What are your plans?”
“If I was rich, I would have bought a gold coffin for my father. Nevertheless, I will not spare any effort in making it the perfect funeral. I have booked a rose wood coffin. Quite expensive, costing about hundred thousand. Polished wood is as reflective as a mirror. Gold coated handles. The inner part will be draped with radiant white satin cloth and covered with the wreath of flowers. Black was not my father’s favorite color. A white velvet suit is chosen. Quite expensive. He should shine in the coffin like a star.”
“This funeral will be a costly affair.”
“Who cares about money? Can I buy my father’s life? No. I am ready to lose all my money on his funeral. I have booked a Cadillac hearse for the procession from home to church. Brass band is organized. Funeral service would be attended by a minimum of three priests. Refreshments will be served soon after the funeral including tea-coffee, fresh lime and sugarcane juice, and tender coconut water. This will be followed by a grand after funeral-reception at my house late in the evening. Family members and close friends will come together, offer condolences, and heal. I have selected the best menu for the repast. Coconut milk fish curry, Boiled rice, Mutton biryani, Pork Bafat, Variety of breads, Beefsteak, Kababs, Prawns, fried fish, Ash gourd curry, Beetroot salad and most important live cooking corner. That is not all. There will be an open bar, serving Whiskey, gin, Bacardi, tequila, beer, and cocktails with veg and nonveg starters. Guests will be happy.”
“What is your objective?”
“Despite the fact that he looked after us so well, the children abandoned him when he became old. The guilt will stay with me until my death. Now I want to give him a perfect funeral. My father’s funeral should remain in people’s hearts forever. I will have peace of mind if his soul rests in peace. Angels will sing and dance. God will bless us. Now I feel I should have made him stay with my family without leaving him at an old age home. It is unfortunate. I wasted the opportunity. If my wife had shown the heart to adjust, he would have joyfully lived with us.”
“No amount of regret can change the past.”
“You are right. There is no point in talking about the past. At this moment, it is my privilege to arrange a perfect funeral to my father. I am ready to spend all my money on him. My plans include a delicately etched marble tombstone on his grave. A piece of ceramic tile will be fixed on the top where my father’s image will be engraved. How does that sound?”
“Impressive. May his soul rest in peace.”
“That is my intention. You are my best friend. I have a request for you. Please do not say no. You will have to do the eulogy after the mass.”
“I am gratified. I truly appreciate your love. Regrettably, I am out of the country. Just joined back to work after vacation.”
“I will pay for your ticket.”
“Thank you. But Sorry, I may not get leave immediately.”
“Oh! That is sad. I may need one more favor.”
“Can you write a beautiful poem about my father’s love and sacrifice? The poem that can touch the heart and evoke strong emotions. I want to publish this in obituary both online and print media. We can include the poem in the memorial card as well.”
“You are aware of this. I am not a poet. If I write, it may create hardly any impact.”
“You have many friends who are popular poets. Can you speak to them? I shall be grateful.”
“I will try,” I assured. He hung up.
I acted immediately without wasting any time. I called a good friend, a renowned poet. He penned a well-structured poem that touched the center of a grieving son’s sorrow. The poem was sent to my friend on WhatsApp. There was no reply. The communication came to a complete halt. I thought, perhaps he carried the hard feelings for my inability to attend his father’s funeral. The refusal to do the eulogy could have hurt his emotions. Over the course of time, the incident slipped my mind.
Then I met him during my next vacation to my hometown. I was hurriedly walking out from Church after Sunday evening mass. He tapped my shoulder. I looked back. There he was! As usual, I felt awkward for no reason.
“It’s almost one year after your father’s death,” I recalled. “I hope the funeral went as per your plans.”
“Whose funeral?” He smiled. “The funeral was called off.”
“What do you mean?” I raised my eyebrows.
“My father was in critical condition,” He explained. “He was seriously ill. Doctor gave a maximum time of 4 hours to live. I made all the arrangements for a perfect funeral. Miraculously he recovered by morning. Steadily he got back on his feet. He is alive and kicking.”
“Truly blessed. Where is he now?” I turned inquisitive.
“He is back to his old-age home. My wife does not get along with my father. He is happy with his inmates. Let him be. How long is your vacation? Why not visit us? I would love to have a drink with you,” He invited me.
“Where do you live?” I asked him.
“You know the house that my father had built,” He replied. “I have been living there with my family for quite some time. Few years back my father transferred the ownership to me. He did not want any conflict among the children after his death. Thereafter I never thought of searching for a separate home. It is a nice villa. I am happily living there with my family. They like the place. I am blessed.”