The Last Goodbye


Although most of the rituals connected with my father’s death were completed, there was just one more left. I made a short trip to my mother’s along with my brother to carry his ashes to this river. Once again I was in the jungle that I love so much! We chose this place, the river Kopili, a three and a half hour drive from my home town, to not scatter, but place his ashes in a little bamboo basket to be transported by the river towards the ocean….. It’s a religious ritual presided by a priest. We (joined by my cousins from the village near the river) headed towards the river and the sight of the clear water, the brilliantly blue sky with patches of cloud, the surrounding greenery immediately made us feel that this was indeed the best place.

A cow grazed on the bank and not a shred of paper nor any discarded plastic bag marred the beauty of this tranquil spot. Most people from my area come here for the last ritual. It’s one of the most serene spots I’ve seen in our parts.

The priest and his helper made a little bamboo float which was decorated with fresh flowers, incense sticks and candles. My father’s ashes were placed on a bed of banana leaf inside a tiny bamboo basket. The basket was then placed on the float. Before the priest released it, we all stood in the water with a coin in our hands.

May you flow like the river
May no stone be an obstacle in your path
Till you reach the ocean…

I cannot reproduce the language used by the priest. The chanting, the meaningful words, the solemnity of the occasion moved us to tears. It was a most beautiful ceremony. That the priest knew my father made it even more so. Just before the float was released in the water we tossed our coins into the river–a symbolic gesture of paying the river for carrying the remains of the departed.
As it left I thought…I haven’t taken a picture! Because the water was deep and certainly not as placid as it appeared, I hadn’t risked taking the camera in the river. We took a quick dip in the river, a ritual which is part of the ceremony. A little later as we came out of the water, my brother-in-law noticed that the float wasn’t moving at all. It’d only gone a short distance.

That part of the river was deep so standing on the bank, he splashed water towards the float hoping that the ripples would help it to flow with the current. I ran towards it and quickly managed to get three shots. Then it started to move. Fast. Maybe the current wasn’t strong enough, maybe my father wanted to be with us for a little while longer…It was after all, the final goodbye.

We came away feeling a peace that comes after wishes fulfilled. The entire journey to the river and on the way back was pleasant and not spoiled by any incident. Even the weather couldn’t have been kinder. And the feeling that somewhere in the expanse of the never-ending jungle and the stretch of blue infinity, my father’s soul is finally at peace.

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About Kanak Hagjer

Hello from north-east India! I love to blog about all things floral and foliar and sharing the beauty of my region is what I am most passionate about!
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17 Responses to The Last Goodbye

  1. Joey says:

    A most touching/tearful post, dear Kanak. What a beautiful ritual and peaceful way to say goodbye to your dear father. It is obvious you are a loving daughter. Hugs, dear friend.

  2. islandgal246 says:

    Kanak that is such a serene and peaceful setting for a final goodbye to a loved one. I wonder how far the float will go and how many seas it will cross? Hugs to you my friend.

  3. Mildred says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us Kanak. Your words so clearly placed the beauty, love and peacefulness of the ceremony in my mind’s eye.

  4. I am so sorry to hear that your father has recently passed away. My mon just died a few years ago. This ceremony sounds sad, but also beautiful, and bringing some closure and peace to you, I am hoping.

  5. Titania says:

    Dear Kanak, this is the most beautiful ceremony to say goodbye for ever to a loved one.The whole setting so serene and peaceful. So nice to think your father finding peace in the live giving waters of the oceans. Hugs Trudi.

  6. Susie says:

    Kanak this is one of the sweetest posts I have ever read. The ceremony sounds like a wonderful way to say goodbye. I’m so glad everything went as well as it did. Thanks for sharing such a moving, personal time with us.

  7. andrea says:

    It was such a moving experience. He is already with the light and may peace and love be with your family. The photo is so serene and tranquil, just like the goobye ritual. Thank you Kanak for sharing with us this experience.

  8. lotusleaf says:

    Kanak, you have described the last goodbye so poignantly. The picture is very calm and serene, so fitting for the occasion.

  9. Randy says:

    Kanak,

    What a wonderful way to be remembered and such fine way to pass his ashes onto to next world. A very touching story and tradition, thanks for sharing it.

  10. Rosie says:

    Kanak this must have been such an emotional day for you all and what a beautiful place to say your final farewells to your dear father.

  11. Indrani Chaudhury says:

    Dear Kanak-i am at a loss for words-it is so beautiful and at the same so poignant.

  12. birdy says:

    Such religious ceremonies held in connection with a departed love one is always tearful. The place you choose, is really a peaceful and best place to say last goodbye to your dear father. Thanks for sharing the details of the ceremony.

  13. What a beautiful goodbye to your father. Thanks so much for sharing this personal journey.

  14. wendy says:

    Oh Kanak, how beautifully you paint this picture with your words! I was right there with you, in this serene , peaceful setting. Your rituals are meaningful and special. I wish we had the same here.

    I also took David’s ashes to a river or actually a lake. It was a beautiful day too. Sailboats on the lake, blue skies, warm sunshine. I saw a dragonfly, then two butterflies, then a heron flying low to the water . Then another heron. They were all symbolic.

    I think your Dad was just waiting for you to take the pics you so wanted to take. I truly believe they send us messages from the Other Side — the realm of Spirit; to bring us comfort and remind us that they are not gone – only transformed.
    Love and Light

  15. Elu says:

    This post has taken me back to his last day and that I was fortunate to be around during his last hours. I remember clearly his one particular visit to our house and a return journey from Maibang with him,after mother and I returned after seeing off father who took the train to Gauhati.Did you all stay in Tara Devi then?

    • kanak7 says:

      Elu…I’m glad you were there…. I think we had already moved to Convent Road. We left Tara Devi in ’67. Brings back memories of a paradise we were blessed to have seen and experienced.

      • Elu says:

        My guess is ok. You all were in Tara Devi.The year was 1965 0r 1966.Have you come across the website http://www.taradevi.co.uk From there I came to know that they were of Irish- Portueguese stock and that Hillary Fosberry who was a student of SAC,Haflong in the chapel was of the 2nd generation(i.e.,if you count her parents;the Sweeneys’ as the 1st gen.Taradevi/Haflong residents). Do you know who the original owners are from whom the Sweeneys’bought it?Derek Perry about whom I mentioned in your “High Tea” blog (earlier format) mentioned in his article that when he met Hillary’s sister Monica Fosberry in London in 2002,she referred to Taradevi as a “little bit of heaven on earth”.Even at that advanced age, she did not forget her childhood home.How I wish these people who develop a sense of belonging wherever they were never left our part of the world.The only memory of that family now is in the form of Hillary’s grave in the Convent cenetery.

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