Getting Through It

The holidays do not conjure the same snapshot for everyone.

Take that snapshot. What does a holiday conjure up for you?

For me, I envision my late father presiding over Diwali like a priest. He was masterful at conducting the rituals and traditions passed down to him from his forebearers in India. He was a pious man who was deeply rooted to his Hindu upbringing in a way that did not feel oppressive to me. He was the pillar of gorgeous traditions which only he could impart and reveal to me as an impressionable child born to my rich culture. Papa’s influence remains strong to this day.

Now my father is gone. Diwali would not be celebratory following his death. We did not observe it with any joy the year that he passed. I probably even cast a pall on all those gathered at the traditional party my children and I had been attending for the past decade or so. Diwali for me, and for my family, remains synonymous with Papa (Nana as my children know him). And each year since his passing, we approach it with sensitivity, especially where my mom is concerned. We leave expectations at the doorstep and enter her home with love and fond memories in our hearts.

COVID-19 has required a new form of restraint from all of us. It has demanded a kind of resilience and grace that is global and invokes our collective citizenship. We are asked to behave in a manner that may dull the pageantry of what a holiday conjures, and maybe even kill it. Kind of like when my father perished, taking Diwali with him that year. But did it? Did the holiday perish with the person and has the spirit of a holiday died with the virus? Or are we shape shifting to meet the seriousness of the moment.

It often comes down to semantics and expectations. If Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Eid and beyond are the most beautiful times of the year that must be spent with all friends and family, then these holidays and traditions may fall short of expectation. In effect, these faith traditions may perish this year, as Diwali had for me in 2018. But if we place a new set of rules into motion, and change the expectations to match the circumstance, then we might salvage the meaning of the holiday without grieving who or what is missing.

Desperate times require graceful measures of us all at some point in our lives. This is, without a doubt, one of those times.  And next year, and the year thereafter, may we look back with glowing satisfaction and say, “And we did it well.”

Yours in health, Dr. Abha


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