20 years after his passing, I rediscovered the legacy my dad left behind
I was recently added to a WhatsApp group for my father’s side of the family. It has been a while since I met or spoke to a lot of them. So I felt awkward. I was a lurker. I quietly read the messages.
Slowly I began to remember some of them and the good times we had when dad had been around — a long time ago. I was waiting for a chance to reconnect with them all.
Finally, yesterday, I decided to break the ice. It seemed like a good day to post something. I thought long and hard about this because I was not sure about the response. I have been so disconnected from some of the folks for so long. I wasn’t sure how they would react.
I needn’t have worried. My dad had ensured that!
September 6th is my dad’s birthday. I posted his picture and told everyone it was his birthday and that I remembered and missed him.
It opened the door to some heartwarming conversations with forgotten cousins and aunts.
I was overwhelmed by the responses.
I was overwhelmed by how many people seem to love him and miss him even 20 years after he has been gone.
Some people wrote directly to the group. Some folks wrote personal messages to me. Some called me.
All of them echoed the same sentiment. They missed my dad. They remembered that he was warm and welcoming. They remembered having had such fun conversations with him.
I have always been proud of my dad. He was kind and soft and full of life. He loved people and enjoyed interacting with friends and family alike. I have never heard him say a single thing against anyone. I have never seen him being rude. Nor for that matter did my mom. Both of them lived a life of dignity in thought and behavior. This has been my foundation.
But yesterday, after so many years, when I heard similar sentiments being expressed by relatives around the world, I was once again in awe.
Some folks pulled out old black & white photos of my dad from their albums and posted them. I could feel the overwhelming love he had commanded back then, and still seemed to so many decades later. I was choked and teary-eyed.
My aunt called up. She was in tears. She said she was lucky to have had a brother like him. She talked about how measured he was in his speech and how his gentle smile and kind words were so soothing.
It was as if people had been waiting to share their love for him and express how much they missed him.
Look at the legacy he left behind! So many years later, people still remember him for these qualities. For his smile, for his kind words, and for his happy conversations. Everyone said they missed him. So many of them said his photo made them tear up.
I was glad I had taken the step to post his photo and rekindle his memories.
Another aunt made a passing comment that there is so much more I don’t know from his younger days. He was adored by the younger cousins for his ability to laugh and make others laugh. When I piece together some of the photos and the life he led, a few things become clear.
Dad seems to have brought cousins together and helped form closer bonds. He was always fond of organizing trips and events and clicking photos of the family. He was one of the few people who possessed a camera in that day and age. Apparently, he was instrumental in organizing so many family trips and taking care of all the logistics.
During the early days of my life, we lived in New Delhi which was far away from the rest of the family in South India. We always had a steady stream of relatives visiting. Everyone was well entertained, taken to visit the city, and photos were clicked. Some of these people had never stepped out of their home town. But they came with the confidence that my dad was there to take care of them. And they have precious memories of those trips to this day.
His hospitality and fun-loving nature were not restricted to his side of the family. Even my mom’s relatives have the same sentiments about my dad. He had the same affection for everyone!
I have secretly believed in this truth for a while. Now it is reinforced.
It doesn’t matter who you become in life, how much you earn, what car you buy, or what type of house you live in. What people will remember you for is the way you touched their lives. They will remember you for the feeling you evoked in them when you spent time with them.
When you are gone, people will remember you for how you made them feel.
And my dad seems to have left behind memories of warmth, kindness, gentleness, and laughter. Am so proud of him! I hope I can walk the path that he has laid at least to some extent.
It is not what you have but who you are that determines how you will be remembered long after you are gone.Anu Anniah