Rewinding the tapes of life
The following eulogy was delivered by my first-born daughter Nadine Khawllemhoi on 3rd October, 2012 at New Christian Cemetery at the unveiling of her mother’s memorial stone. Thank you for your prayers and wishes!
Thank you all – for coming to commemorate my mother’s life.
One of the greatest gifts God endowed on us is the gift of memory. It is the channel through which we rewind the tapes of our life and go back into the past and recollect both the good and bad times. Pages of one’s life, however painful, can bring a smile of joy and happiness, as it is with my mother’s. Wherever a beautiful soul has been, there is always a trail of beautiful memories.
As I set about this task, I realized that a daughter sees her mother differently than those of you who are lifelong friends or colleagues. It is even more difficult to speak on behalf of my siblings but I will try to represent the shared feelings of love, devotion and admiration we all felt towards mother. My mother would be very pleased and honored to see that you all could make it here today to share in this with us, as it was her family and friends who were the most important focus of her life. It was also your continued support, well wishes and prayers which were so valuable to her in her final weeks.
Before I go on to celebrate my mother and what she stood for I must share with you the reality of what life was like for my father, mother and the family since she was first diagnosed with cancer in March 2007.
We all shared my mother’s pain. It was like we were all on trial. At one point, as a family, we were in denial, we were angry, and we were depressed. And there was conflict. We disagreed with the doctor’s findings. We didn’t always agree with each other on a course of action. It was a confusing time.
In the end, though, I felt we all put up a good fight. We did what we could do.
To cut the story short, it all began one day in the winter of 2004 – it was Christmas holidays. We were all sitting in the sun, some of us reading and some playing. My dad with a chronic ear problem was cleaning his ears with an ointment called Cloben G. Mom walked up to him and asked to use the ointment to rub her ear as she was also feeling a kind of burning sensation in her ears. As her ear problem persisted, we went to ENT Hospital, Tezpur a few days later. But since there was no immediate relief, mom consulted several ENT specialists at Downtown Guwahati, Tezpur and Imphal.
During one such visit with a doctor at Imphal, he remarked that mother has to undergo an operation for mastoid abscess. My late grandpa and dad conferred and decided to go for a thorough checkup at Christian Medical College, Vellore. Accompanied by aunty NiNgailian, Mom left for Vellore on February 19, 2007. With aunty Lamchong and uncle Soviyo, who were at that time living in Chennai, they proceeded to Vellore and booked their first appointment for March 1, 2007. The doctor was Dr. V. Rajashekar of the ENT department. And mom’s CMC registration number was 983897C ENT3. Later, Mom was assigned to another doctor Dr. V. Rupa who ordered an MRI scan. The result was shocking but we wanted to dismiss it as a false alarm. The doctors informed that there was a tumor and it has to be diagnosed if it was malignant or not. After a long wait of two weeks came the shattering news that mother was indeed suffering from cancer came. It was a hard blow to every one of us.
Mom was asked to undergo 33 rounds of radiotheraphy and 6 cycles of chemotherapy. While my mother may have seemed shy, in many respects, she was also courageous. Most of us, perhaps even all of us, who are gathered here today, do not know what it is like to face a life-threatening terminal disease like cancer. When you go for treatment it is simply like rolling the dice in terms of where you’re headed without any absolute certainty of what is going to happen. But Mom faced the treatment bravely, with a song in her heart and a prayer on her lips. My mother never complained.
She completed her treatment in December 2007 and was so optimistic of a shared future and life. She was bubbling with joy and life. She continued her check-up every three months and was looking forward to the future when the doctors at CMC informed during December 2008 that the tumor had recurred. There was so little we could do. The doctors asked mother to undergo a second-line of chemotherapy. Christmas 2008, our last Christmas together, was so different. We had so little to celebrate. We were all in a state of shock. Bhalukpong never look so dreary and dark. New Year 2009 came and on January 12, 2009, we took our last family photo in Arunachal Pradesh. Around 1.30 pm Mom bid goodbye to Ruth Foundation English School for the last time.
The second-line of chemotherapy was to be administered thrice at an interval of 21 days. Mom underwent the first, hoping against hope that it will work. But the doctors who monitored her progress gave up after the first dose. They said, “…the tumor was rapidly spreading” and the chemotherapy was only helping it spread to her cells. On March 25, she left CMC, Vellore for the final time shattered and heartbroken.
I don’t know what must have gone through my mother’s mind. It must have been so painful and difficult. When the treatment failed dad and mom visited the doctor inquiring how to proceed further. And dad told me that mother asked the doctor a pointed question which the doctor was also evasive in his answer. “Doctor, how long will I live?”
Mom never returned to Bhalukpong. Dad went to pack our things. Patricia, Janie and Robie joined the school for a month. The family made its final goodbye on March 29, 2009 to the place and school that has given us so much for almost ten years. Mom landed in Guwahati the next day March 30. We cried so much. We halted the night at aunty Ni Phal and uncle Gangkam’s place. The next day on March 31, grandpa, dad, mom and all of us took a flight back home.
The next six months and three days were full of hope and fear, joy and tear, sadness and happiness. It went by too fast. Mom was dying slowly but surely. As time passed, her condition deteriorated. And by October 3, 2009, the day she left us all for her eternal rest, she was reduced to a mere skeleton, a difficult sight to behold, and so pitiful for such a kind and loving mother to go through.
But in the midst of her suffering she also tasted and savoured the love, care, affection and prayers of countless people not only within our community but also outside, from Churachandpur-Imphal to Shllong-Guwahati to Bhalukpong to Delhi and even a few friends abroad.
I have to ask myself what would my mother want for us right now.
I think she’d want us to remember her, but not with tears but a smile on our faces and move on in life as we are doing now. She’d want us to talk with our Creator and deal with her death in our own way, but also put her death behind us and live a life that she would be proud of.
I would like to thank all of you for coming here today to help us, as a family, to celebrate my mother’s life. It’s so good to see you all and it makes me feel good inside. Thanks to all of you for showing up here today.
I see so many of you mom adored, loved and, so often talked about. Some of you have been close to her as a friend, some as a member of her extended family and some of you whom she knew intimately since her childhood days. Yet, all of us are gathered here because of a shared memory and love. Thank you for coming out.
I’m glad we have grandma from Imphal but unfortunately grandpa couldn’t make it. My mother’s only brother Pu Khup, who shared much of the financial burden during the course of mother’s treatment – we are so grateful to you and PiJenny for all your help, my mom’s elder sister aunty Kim, we are so indebted to you for the many help you’ve rendered, and my mom’s younger sister aunty Lamchong, so glad you could make it here today. You were a pillar of strength and encouragement for mother and the rest of us. Thank you for the food, money and shelter that you have provided for us – with uncle Soviyo. You always made us feel at home. We couldn’t be more blessed. And also aunty Phal, my dad’s older sister, who shared many intimate moments with my mother during her stopovers at Guwahati on her way to Vellore/Bhalukpong. Unfortunately uncle Kam couldn’t make it today, but I would want him to know that my father, me and my sisters are truly grateful to him for all the support, financially and morally. Above all else, we are grateful for the love and affection that you have shown to us. And I know that many of you prayed for mother with all your heart, which God in His great scheme of things answered not the way we prayed for but in His own way. My mother before her home-going routinely expressed her gratitude. And I feel it is my bounden duty as her oldest daughter to convey it to you all. Without you all, we couldn’t have put up the fight. Thank you.
And we her children? Patricia, Janie, Robie and me – we should take comfort knowing that mother is in heaven right now, looking down on us. We are fortunate that God has provided for us an angel mother…who will never be tired of watching over us, or thinking of us. It is time to be grateful for the brief time we all shared as a family, and to live our life knowing that she loved us very much.
Mother was special in many ways. Reserved and shy, she was known for her obedience and submissiveness. Never the type to bark at others, I have never known her to shout or scream at me. She was tender in most ways but with a strength that belied expectation.
Mom and dad have many shared hobbies. One of them was the love of books. During the course of her 2-year-long treatment, books, Bible and a hymnal was her constant companion. One of the last books mother read was a Christian fiction authored by Francine Rivers “The Redeeming Love”. She wet her pillows reading through the book and she told me that she read it twice. I also read the book after my mother was finished with it. The novel is an allegory of God’s love for each one of us.
Mom said she could relate herself to the story and was grateful that God saved a wretched person like her.
I love to remember my mother when she was full of life, and how she always stood up for dad. How when our family first settled at Bhalukpong, she made it possible for us to call it home. She made home home.
One important trait mom possessed was generosity. She was generous to a fault with her money, her time, her energy, and her advice. She provided invaluable support to a remarkable number of people. Over the years, during the course of our almost ten years of living in Arunachal Pradesh, I’ve heard many stories of the friends, relatives, neighbors, and parents of our school to whom my mother provided help and support in their times of need. In one instance, in 2005 she bought 2 sacks full of clothes for Christians and non-Christians of Bhalukpong just before Christmas and distributed them to needy people. She went out of her way in helping people in need. On many occasions, people used to take undue advantage of her generosity.
Like many mothers, my mother took a special pride in giving us kids all she could at Christmas time. One of the things that I thought was unique was the Christmas present she bought for all of us in 2007. My mother gift-packed presents for all of us inside a big carton box and on Christmas morning during our family service it was unwrapped – Pupu, Pipi, Papa, PaLalboi, Didi Minuti – our Bodo maid who took care of Robie for over 2 years, and the rest of us. As a teenaged daughter, I thought that was awesome. What a wonderful way for the family to celebrate Christmas!
Perhaps the thing I’ll remember my mother most for, however, is her love for God and selfless service towards others. I believe her 42 years of life was spent loving and serving others. Mother’s life may be short if we measure it in terms of time and distance, but it was rich with love, affection, devotion, concern for others and many finer qualities which many of us would not surpass even if we live to be hundred.
You just simply can’t describe what it is like to lose someone you love very much. These days, however, all I know is that I feel she is watching over me. When I’m at home or in college and the hostel where I’m staying I hear mom talking to me through every heart beat, I hear mom telling me to be true to my own character and values. And thus, my mother will live on within me, and through me, for the rest of my life.
All of us have dreams in life. Beautiful dreams, each different from one another! But as human beings, we all dream one common dream – of family living, loving, laughing together and of your parents growing old together and the family holding hands and walking into the beautiful sunset together. But ours was not meant to be. God had a different plan!
It is said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
If, by the end of her life, my mother ended up touching all of your hearts – then I ask you, what else can anyone ask for in this world, but to touch people’s hearts.
As a parent and friend, my mother had an extraordinary ability to make each of us feel loved. She will live on in our memories and in our hearts forever. In my class Xth and XIIth certificates I am identified and known as the daughter of Khomlianting Vaiphei, and I am and will always be extremely proud to call myself the daughter of Khomlianting Vaiphei.
Thank you, mom! And thank you all for being a part of my mother’s life!
In fine, I’d like to end with this amazing quote, “Sometimes tears are an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death’s perfect punctuation mark is a smile.”
A life like my mother’s led hand in hand with God, who can question its brevity but celebrate for we have been blessed to witness the life of such a human being.
I’m sure Mom’s having a great time right now, talking with Jesus!