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Posts tagged ‘life’

An Unexpected Encounter.

I haven’t written for some time.  Writing happens when writing happens.

Today I was walking through my neighborhood Randall’s to get a few items.  I meandered through the aisles with my short list on repeat in my head so that I would not forget.  All of sudden, my eyes fell upon a lady.  She appeared to be in her late 50’s, though truly I don’t know.  More than just the eyes, my whole body was moved by her appearance; a nervous fluttering, and breathing that spontaneously felt heavy.  I walked past her calmly, though my body experienced the opposite.

The following description may be too graphic for some, though I will share it because it was what I saw. 

She had two black and blue eyes, a nose that was swollen and crusted with a significant amount of visible blood.  Her demeanor appeared fragile, though that might have been my own projection.  She was on the phone as I saw her.

I headed to the check out, though my heart felt as if it had stopped in the aisle with the lady.  My heart felt uncomfortably concerned.  Even while I was paying for my groceries, I kept glancing back to where I saw the lady.  Was she still there?  Should I just leave and go on about my evening?  Should I go back and ask her if she is ok or if she needed anything?  Would she tell me even if she needed help?  What would I do if she said yes?

As I grabbed my grocery bag, I turned my head back one more time.  She was still there on the phone.  My legs started walking toward her even while my head continued with its questions.  As I got closer, she was no longer on her phone.

I stood in front of her and looked gently into her eyes.  I asked, “Excuse me, I hope it is ok for me to ask this, are you ok?  Is there anything you need?”.  She looked at me and very quickly said, “Oh thank you, I am ok.  I just fell.  I broke my ribs”.  I had no idea of broken ribs from the surface of her appearance.  “I am just coming from the doctor’s office and he fixed my nose”.  There was a brief pause.  I said, “Ok, I saw you and felt concerned. I wanted to check if you were ok or needed help of any kind”.  Our eyes still meeting, we smiled gently at one another.  I walked out of Randall’s to my car and back home to my family.

Perhaps what she said was true and perhaps it was not.  I wondered, “Would a doctor really let her leave their office without a bandage of some kind?”.  I guess I won’t know for sure.  My gut still felt concerned for her.  

I went back to the safety of my home and my family.  My hope is that this lady is safe and heals.  I will have to be ok with at least letting her know that I saw her and that I offered concern and care, even if for a moment.


***  I don’t know that I would have had the courage to walk back to this lady had I not taken SAFE’s advocate training this past year.  I am deeply thankful for those that do this important work daily.


It is fitting that I am remembering my Dad today on September 9th.  It is his birthday, though he is no longer here in physical form.  He passed away almost twelve years ago now.  My relationship with my Dad was mixed, loving at times and quite difficult others.  I know in my Heart that he was always doing the best that he could. Despite the difficulties, he was often, if not always at my soccer games.  He took a keen interest in my education.  I remember when fiber optics was all the rage, he took me into New York city to an exhibit at the museum of science on telecommunications.  Trips to NYC were rare so it felt pretty cool, though I am not sure I appreciated it fully at the time.  He had a passion for science and was eager to share it with me.  Beyond soccer and science, he had a real quirkiness about him, likely where I get much of mine.

Fast forward to 2005.  He was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma five days after the birth of my daughter, Sophia. He passed away eighteen months later, just a month prior to the birth of my second daughter, Sonia.  Birth and death were very much alive for my family, all at once.  The first year of Sophia’s life I traveled most months between Austin and Houston, so that I could be at home at least a week or two, out of every month.  I often tell myself that I didn’t fully process my Dad’s passing because I was either postpartum or just about to deliver my second.  As I look back now, I realize that the processing was happening across those last eighteen months of his life.  Watching cancer move through him was preparing my whole family for the final passing. In his later months, he was quite weak.  He no longer looked the way we had known him to look.  His spirit was alive, but his physical state was fragile.  For a man who could have a fierce temper, it was hard to see him in this way.  Those eighteen months, I grieved.  I grieved for him not being able to see his grandchildren grow up.  I grieved for him not being able to enjoy retirement in the way that he could have.  I grieved for all the moments I wish I had had with my Dad, and for those sweet moments that I did have.  I grieved, realizing that he had always done the best that he was able to do as a father.

I remember in the last months of his life, my sister had an unfortunate injury to her ankle, leaving her to have urgent surgery and then recuperating at home for almost two months.  During this time, I went to Houston to be with them.  It was a complete paradox of fortune and misfortune.  My Dad was entering his last stages of life and my sister was recovering from a severe injury.  I was able to be at home with all of them – my Mom, Sophia, Sonia in utero, my Dad and my sister.  Even during that time, as weak as my Dad was, I could feel his concern and care for my sister’s recovery.  He would occasionally prompt my then fourteenth month old to go into my sister’s room to shower her with kisses in the way only a fourteenth month old could.  After a few weeks I returned home to Austin, only to receive a call a week later that it was time.  My Dad called me saying, “Sheila beta, there is not much time now”.  My heart sank.  I still remember it so vividly.


The next day, I was back in Houston with Sophia and Herb.  Three days later he passed away at home surrounded by his family.  Those last three days are still a blur to me, and perhaps that is why I feel that I didn’t grieve fully.  Everything from that point onward also feels cloudy, as we returned home to Austin with my mom, and I delivered my dear Sonia a little more than a month later.


Today, on September 9th, 2018, it is raining.  We have the screen doors open.  I can hear the pitter patter of the rain, and feel the humidity on my skin.  There is an achiness in my heart, my throat feels caught as if in mid-sentence, my abdomen tender.

It feels like the breath and the rain are washing over me.

Happy birthday to my dear Dad.

A Tribute to a Life Well Lived

Below I am sharing my eulogy for my dear father-in-law, Shangara Singh, who passed away on July 3rd, 2018.  .

My name is Sheila. I am Captain’s wife, and Shangara Singh’s daughter-in-law.

I held Dad very close to my heart, and in talking to friends in his community, I have come to know that many of you equally held Dad with great love, respect and admiration.  It has been awe-inspiring to hear the stories of Dad’s commitment and devotion to the welfare of his community. Those who experienced his generosity know what I am speaking about. He was often available to help friends and family when they were in need, and he never asked for much in return apart from sincerity and honesty.  He was not one who needed acknowledgement or praise. The act of seva and generosity itself was enough.

As you might imagine, along with community, Dad was wholly devoted to his family.  While as an engineer, he had a precise and sharp mind, as a father figure, he held us all with a warm and loving heart.  With his children, he had the ability to become a child again. It was one of his many gifts. I saw it in the way he related to his granddaughters, Sophia and Sonia.  He way playful, loving and doted on them. In fact, he would affectionately address them as Sonia-ji and Sophia-ji. He was always willing to listen to the many things pre-teen girls are interested in talking about… and available to go to the playground for soccer, to make late night trips to the grocery store for snacks, or to attend the many school functions the girls had.  In fact, I don’t remember him ever saying no to the girls for anything. This was the sweetness of his love as a grandfather.

As a father, he offered guidance, but not too much, nor too little.  Captain and I felt genuinely cared for, but Dad rarely imposed his opinions on us.  He gifted us the freedom to explore and learn, and offered his unconditional support. Often it was his quiet and gentle presence that made me feel so at ease around him.  

The past several years, Mom and Dad were spending summers with us in Austin.  I cannot tell you the numerous ways in which Dad helped us. This past summer he spent countless hours attending to things in our home that needed to be repaired.  I saw the amount of time he was devoting, yet he rarely talked about all that he was doing, nor did he ask for recognition or thanks.  During the summer, I would often have a week or two where I would work full days and need help with the girls.  He always offered support saying, “Sheila, don’t worry. Just tell me how I can help with the girls and I will be there.”  This was the kindness of his love as a father.

Still, some of my fondest memories of Dad are the hikes that we would take together on our summer travels.  He was always the one who was eager to go on when everyone else was tired. He and I would continue hiking; easy conversation weaved together with peaceful silence.  Usually, I was the one who would have to urge Dad that we should turn around and return, in case the others began to worry. The spirit of adventure and love for the outdoors was very much alive in him.

Last though not least, I appreciated Dad’s simplicity and humility.  To me it was a sign of how evolved he was as a human being. He had high ideals when it came to truthfulness and integrity, yet he did not have a strong ego.  He remained humble despite his many life achievements, and he remembered that the simple things in life were in fact the most important. He did not seem to be caught in the waves of constantly striving and seeking for more. He had the capacity to slow down and enjoy the moment. I think because of this he carried a profound peacefulness about him, and this peacefulness was often transmitted to those around him.  I know that I experienced this.

While I have attempted to describe Dad’s legacy as I have come to know it, words cannot fully describe how much he will be missed.  It has been a great honor and privilege for me to have called Shangara Singh my Dad. Though he is no longer with us in physical form, his love, energy and wisdom remains with us eternally. 



The Final Meditation

As I sat in meditation this morning, I could feel the layers of myself soften. Almost as if they were falling away.  A lightness emerged where I was no longer absorbed in the abstraction of thinking, but resting a little more fully in direct experience itself.  The heaviness of identity, history, anticipations, emotions melted for some moments. Even time became irrelevant.


As I returned back to my thinking mind, there was the recognition of meditation as a death.  Death, not in a dark way, but in a way of an ultimate freedom.  We often get caught in the human realms.  We think we are only our history, our identity, our body, our successes and our failures, and yet we are so much more.  All of these layers of experience and humanity can obscure the luminous essence of what is our original Nature and essence.  An essence that can never be taken or given.  It just is.

In those latter moments of meditation, I felt connected to my dear father in law who recently passed away.  I felt the realms where we are eternally connected in a beautifully unobscured and pure way.  Perhaps his passing was his final meditation, where he was returning to the original, undisturbed, and undivided essence.  The state prior to all states, and itself not even a state.

I still long to connect with my father in law in a human way, but for now this offers some solace to the heart.  It was my great honor to call Shangara Singh my Dad.  I will miss him dearly.

Clearing the way for a purposeful and intentional life

Since the beginning of the new year, I have been taking time to sit and listen for a sense of heartfelt purpose in life, and intentions that I can carry in my days.  When I say heart’s purpose, I am speaking of something that is beyond the personal will and the ego.  While these are important human functions, instead I am referring to a purpose that emerges from something greater.  It is the sense of how we have been called to be in life and, consequently, what we have been called to do.  As such, it is not something we come to know through the mind or the ego.  These are products of familial, societal and cultural conditioning, and can be useful, even brilliant.  However, I am speaking of something more intuitive, a direction that life keeps pointing us toward as our way and our work in the world.  Know that this does not have to mean something grandiose; in fact, it can be small and impactful.  This purpose is often something we feel, though if our days are full and moving fast, we may keep missing the call.  Sometimes it is the truth of impermanence that can wake us up to our inner calling, what really matters, and what this life was truly intended for.  In fact, you can even use this as a point of reflection at the end of a meditation.

What would matter if you had a year left?  What begins to matter if you had a week left, perhaps just moments?  How do you want to Be in this life?  What is your heart called toward?  How does this guide you in what you do and what you make time for?  What do you say no to and what do you say a resounding a yes to?  

These are invaluable contemplations.  When we come home to a sense of purpose and direction, we feel more resilient in the face of life, across the movements of success and failure, triumph and challenge, loss and gain.  Life does not hang on a single outcome because it carries a greater overarching purpose.

It takes time to hear the call, and it requires that we listen often and regularly.  Once heard, we take time to know our purpose through our minds, but also to feel it in our bodies.  This is important so that when we find ourselves speeding through our days and our weeks, forgetting how we want to be and what matters, we can eventually remember because it has been known and felt through this living, breathing body.

This is an exploration I will continue to sit with myself, and one that I will offer in classes  through the next few weeks.  For today I will leave you with a poem by Martha Postlewaite that perhaps will resonate with you.

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
~ Martha Postlewaite