As the first year anniversary of my father’s death approaches, I have often thought of resurrection as the earth has journeyed around the sun in these days.
I needed resurrection in those days when I saw my father, who I knew as a force of nature, wither down to skin and bones as cancer ate him alive.
I needed resurrection because a part of myself died when my father departed this earth.
I needed (and continue to need) resurrection to get to the next, new day. Little did I know I would actually experience resurrection in the face of death. I saw the resurrected Christ in my Hindu father and I found God’s grace in his death.
My dad died in the middle of a vicious rainstorm. The power went out, and my mom, brother, my spouse and I had to yell at each other because it was raining just that hard.
We were in a panic because the breath of life was no longer in my father’s body.
We were in a panic because in one minute, my father went from alive to dead.
We were in a panic because we had to now live in a new reality where my father’s incredible and overwhelming presence was no longer.
I remember screaming and crying into the phone, trying to get the on-call hospice nurse to return to the house to do the impossible; restore the breath of life into my father’s body. Logically, I knew my father died. But emotionally, I had this insane hope that resurrection could happen at that very moment, that my father would rise from his deathbed, be cured from his cancer, and continue to overwhelm our lives in the best way possible.
Resurrection happened on that day, but not the way I expected.
My father was not Lazarus, who was unbound by the cloths and stench of death. My father was bound by a dhoti; he told me that he entered this world as a Hindu, and he would die as a Hindu.
He wanted to be clothed in a simple dhoti upon his death. The on-call hospice nurses arrived. They bathed my father and bound him in his version of his shroud. As my family was entering into the complex and confusing emotions of a new reality, the pounding rain slowed. It cleared to a drizzle to reveal a magnificent double rainbow.
If the double rainbow wasn’t striking enough, a bright red-orange fox was running through the clearing in front of my parents’ house, headed straight for the rainbows. All I could think at that moment that the Spirit was ready for a new adventure.
My dad’s final wish was also an act of God’s grace.
My dad’s final wish was also an act of God’s grace. It also involved a bunch of Lutherans. It was quite the cast of characters. It was the assistant to Bishop in northern California/ Nevada, who contacted the assistant to the Bishop in South Carolina who contacted a member of the Christian Action Council in Columbia, South Carolina who contacted my campus pastor from my college days at Clemson University to help my family in a profound way.
That chain of brothers and sisters in Christ working together found the Hindu priest my dad desperately wanted before he left the house for the last time.
But because the Spirit does what She does, somehow this priest, that Hindu priest, who rarely traveled away from his home, was at the Vedic Center (the Hindu house of worship) near by on the day of my father’s death. Another miracle that occurred that night was that my mother, who kept vigil at my father’s bedside in his last months and rarely left his side, somehow had ALL of the materials needed to perform the puja.
The flowers to offer to the Deities and my father came from an African violet, a Mother’s Day present of years past.
Dried flowers from a tulsi plant that somehow survived months of neglect. Long forgotten whole betel nuts, miraculously found at the back of my parents’ puja space. Atta flour to create mounds of offering.
All of these people, all of these things needed for ritual, came together at that time and that place. I am led to believe that it was because of the Holy Spirit at work through all these people that, by the grace of God, my dad received the biggest gift, his greatest desire on his last day on this earth; to have his body blessed, to have the Hindu ceremony that released his soul from his body before leaving his house and his family for the final time.
I was re-formed by my dad’s death. It was a visceral re-forming, but God was there. It took his death to solidify my belief in the Holy Spirit at work in the world today and to solidify my belief in Christ’s resurrection.
And Papa, I miss you. Every damn day.