Ever since our beloved aunt Geetha-atte passed away during the third week of January, we were in mourning for a period of 12 days that culminated in a ceremony performed yesterday when the entire family said their final goodbyes to her departed soul. Life goes on...people move on….. times change…while what remains are memories! So as we try to get on with our normal day-to-day routine, there will still be some things that bring her back to life, in our minds – be it her water bottle that mysteriously finds its way into our kitchen reminding us how she never failed to remind us to have it filled every night, or while savouring her favorite sweet/dessert, or remembering her bold and cheeky comments that she so was famous or infamous for or stumbling upon "Sankara TV", her favorite channel on television – all of those being Geetha-atte’s parting gifts.
Ever since her demise, I have been on the look-out for children’s books on bereavement and ordered this off flipkart which arrived just as we returned home after performing her last rites as if to mark the end of her time with us. “Badger’s parting gifts” by Susan Varley is a beautiful story about the loss of a friend and coming to terms with it. Badger, a much loved friend of all the animals in woodland was so old that he knew he would soon die. As Badger goes down the long tunnel (which is how dying is shown), his friends, Mole, Frog, Fox and the Rabbit are overwhelmed by the loss as Badger was always there when they needed him. As the winter sets in, the whole woodland is covered in snow as if to signify the sorrow all the animals felt over Badger’s death. As spring drew near, each of his friends remembers Badger for what he had taught them. Mole recalls how Badger introduced him to paper cutting; Frog fondly remembers how Badger guided him into becoming an excellent skater he is today; Fox is grateful to Badger for learning to knot a tie and Mrs. Rabbit owes her delicious gingerbread recipe to Badger! As the last of the snow melts, so does the animal’s sadness which make them also remember other stories about Badger that bring smile on their faces. Finally, on a warm sunny day, Mole walks to hillside where he last met Badger and thanks him for his parting gifts believing that Badger would hear him….and Badger somehow did! Abhay then asked me if Geetha-atte can hear us even after she is dead to which I didn’t respond immediately as I honestly don’t know the answer myself. But one thing is for sure….Geetha-atte may have gone down the long tunnel, but her memories are always etched in our minds and hearts!