Many events in close succession changed my life drastically lately. My mother’s passing away in her 80s robbed me of a longtime companion, friend and a person to irritate and nag, which did not go down well with her. Despite the irritants, a symbiotic relationship existed between us. My family consists of, besides me and my wife, our two daughters, who were reared by my mother. The grueling undertaking had given her much-needed distraction from the sorrow and sense of loss caused by my father’s sudden passing away. Just before her death my older daughter had left home after marriage- something which was a ‘sour- sweet’ experience for me- ‘sour’ because a daughter’s wedding entails her leaving home to start her own family, and ‘sweet’ because she was blessed with a wonderful man for her husband, and we with a wonderful son. This was followed soon after by my younger daughter leaving home to pursue post-graduation in business studies. My home, which brimmed over with people till the other day turned an empty nest abruptly.
I missed my mother see me off to work. I missed her welcoming smile and mouthwatering delicacies she would prepare for me to satiate ravishing hunger with which I returned home from work. I missed my daughters’ laughter and mirth at dinner time. I missed the TV programmes my daughters watched in full volume, which had irritated me back then. I missed my mother’s anxious phone calls and enquiries at my daughters’ delay in reaching home, much to their annoyance. I realized I was struggling to cope with the inevitable ‘empty-nest syndrome.’
My wife, a busy anesthesiologist, took umbrage in her profession to shoo away the empty-nest blues, something I was denied of, thanks to a stroke that wreaked havoc with my career as a surgeon. The stroke had denied me the intensity and involvement in my surgical career caused by considerable weakness the stroke had caused my left side. Physical wholeness, after all is so crucial for every vocation, especially to a surgeon. Profession therefore failed to provide me the welcome distraction my ‘empty life’ badly needed. The prospect of having to return to a quieter, dark home unsettled me every evening. My wife and I tried to return home from work together. Inability to do so would have me cast down, nervous and heavy-hearted.
I badly needed something to light up the darkness that had engulfed my life abruptly. As I trudged along, I remembered a verse from a popular hymn sung in churches, and one which is played by the band of the Indian armed forces at Beating the Retreat ceremony that follows the Republic day parade every year. This particular hymn had created quite a furor this year, after the Central Government reportedly decided to omit it from this year’s Beating the Retreat. Public protests that followed had the government reinstate the hymn, which was the favorite of Mahatma Gandhi.
The verse ‘Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me’, from the hymn ‘Abide with me’ instilled in me that much-needed bolstering I badly needed. I sang that verse quietly, each time I entered the quiet and the darkness of my home.
Promise of an unchanging Providential Grace provided me vital confidence in the unconditional and omnipresent power we all call ‘God’, anchoring me to strength and vitality that had ebbed away and which I badly needed to move on. The verse not only strengthened me, but also brightened my days which had plunged into darkness caused by the ‘empty nest’ my home had become, through abrupt turn of events.