They say that life begins at 40. Which it did for me. I turned 40 in June 2019. Following that, I attended a yoga training in South India at the Heartfulness yoga and meditation ashram, lead by its master, Kamlesh D. Patel affectionately known as Daaji. Somehow, the monsoon rains took a toll on my foot and my right ankle became swollen and infected. Fortunately, my dorm mate, Simran took me under her wing, ensuring that I received good care at the medical centre and proceeded to become my official translator from English to Hindi. I was grateful to her and it’s funny how the universe sends you good people at your lowest times.
I returned to Fiji during early September where it was not long before I had to take further unpaid leave from my United Nation’s desk job to tend to my ailing mother, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December 2017. I spent a month with her in the local hospital in Suva, ensuring that she received proper care and love. These are moments I do not regret and having heard from people about their experiences looking after their ailing parents, I now understand what it means. It really is a privilege bestored to a few. I witnessed my mother peacefully release her last breath. Mum died in October and I organized her cremation service about 4 days after.
Following her funeral, about two weeks after I organized an ashes ceremony to release mum and dad’s ashes into Suva harbour. The ceremony was attended by my close friends and family. It was a very powerful experience when I spread mum’s ashes into the ocean, she blew back into my face and upon letting go of her urn, she made a huge splash whereby I laughed and knew she was saying, “I am not done yet!” Dad on the other hand went quietly and gently into the ocean. We were all touched by this ceremony and it was a big emotional release for me.
It was not long after mum’s funeral, that I returned to work and finish my contract with the United Nations. A close friend from Vanuatu, Sarah Mecartney decided that I should visit her and her family in Port Vila after Christmas but there was a delay of 2 days due to Cyclone Sarai.
I spent new year’s eve with her beautiful family on Mele beach where we lit Chinese lanterns and released them into the evening sky with words of parting for our loved ones. I remember clearly, lighting a red lantern (mum’s favourite color) and saying goodbye to mum again…she flew quite high over the hills in the distance and it was symbolic of her death, that she was put to eternal rest.
The second half of 2019 was eventful to say the least. What lessons did I learn after turning 40?
Firstly, from the yoga training experience, I learnt the value of friendship and love from strangers who become great friends. With my mum’s time in hospital and her death, I learnt the value of a child spending time with her dying mother, how precious these moments are and that death when it comes, is really a transition from this realm (earthly) into another realm. I am no longer afraid of death itself but value the meaning of life. I now see experiences as having more importance than material possessions. The ashes ceremony allowed me to put closure to my parents’ deaths. I still remember breaking down into tears when reading a poem to them. I enjoyed the ritual and the lesson here is that there is importance in death rituals because they give significance and honor to the departed .After my contract with the United Nations ended, I transitioned into working for myself through teaching yoga. I learnt that the 9 to 5 work life is not my true calling but that teaching yoga and opening myself to new opportunities are. Finally, with my Ni-Vanuatu friend’s invitation to Vanuatu, I learnt the value of long term friendships and the revelation of genuine friendships, where you are loved and accepted into a family, tank yu tumas Sarah and Anna :-).
Halfway through my 40th year on earth, I choose to integrate the lessons into 2020.
Releasinga red chinese lantern into the sunset on New Year’s eve on Mele beach, Port Vila, Vanuatu with Sarah’s cousin Vanessa. I silently said to mum a final goodbye and she flew over the distant mountains. Her favourite color was red :-). Photo credit: Sarah Mecartney.