Raphael

“Raphael? But his elder brother has a beautiful Indian name!”

This is usually the reaction of many people as we introduce our second son.

Raphael is an angel and the name means “God has healed”.

Our second son Raphael was born on 18 December 2013 in Chennai. After a some what complicated pregnancy, he was born one month before he was due and so he needed some time in the neo natal intensive care unit. He needed to start breathing on his own without oxygen and he was out there with tubes and IVs all over him. A heart breaking moment for any parent to go witness their new born’s battle for survival. His father and I were not able to hold him for several days. On 24 December, the doctors told us that his jaundice was too high and that he got an infection in the NICU. Our world came crashing down as each day, there was no sign of hope. Though the doctors couldn’t do anything and I, his mother who carried him for 36 weeks was helpless, there was faith that stood strong. The whole world was preparing for the birth of Christ and here I was, feeling like my world was crashing. But I still managed to keep faith and to pray for our little boy. On 25 December, at midnight we got a call from the doctors to go and see our little boy and that I could feed him! His jaundice had come down and the infection was under control and I could finally hold him in my arms. He fought his battle hard and came out strong and that moment will always be the best moment in my life. It felt like Christmas again! It felt magical!

Raphael came home on 31 December, his father’s birthday and is 4 weeks old today and makes sure he gives me a couple of sleepless nights ūüôā

Faith does not make promises as it is upto us to believe or not. In a world of pain and suffering, when there is a magical moment, it is a reminder that God is still holding us. This piece is not a call for belief but it’s a mother’s story of the birth of Raphael, our angel who was healed by God.

Amen.

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For everyone born by Shirley Erena Murray

For everyone born, a place at the table,
for everyone born, clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star over head.

Refrain:Cross and bowl

And God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace;
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice, and joy.

For woman and man, a place at the table,
revising the roles, deciding to share,
with wisdom and grace, dividing the power,
for woman and man, a system that’s fair. Refrain

For young and for old, a place at the table,
a voice to be heard, a part in the song,
the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old, the right to belong. Refrain

For everyone born, a place at the table,
to live without fear, and simply to be,
to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
for everyone born, the right to be free.

 Photo courtesy: Daphne Martin-Gnanadason

Lessons from a little heart…

When our three-year old son Karthik, witnessed the passing away of his dear grandfather last week, he had several questions like any toddler would have. He knew that Jonathan thatha (his paternal grandfather) was no more and that he has gone forever. For a child to understand “gone forever” is both beautiful and important. Important because he would not live with the expectation of seeing his thatha tomorrow and beautiful because he hides wonderful memories in his little heart and he remembers the lessons that thatha had taught him in his sharp mind.

When Karthik saw his thatha lying peacefully in a cold freezer box, he asked us how thatha could go to God if we put him in a box. He was upset that we did not open the box to let him go. His question may be innocent but it helped me reflect on a very important issue in life. Sometimes, we find it hard to let go of our anger and hatred and we let our hearts turn icy and cold but we try to convince ourselves that we are free souls. But, how can we be liberated if we do not let go of feelings that hold us back from being peaceful? I am grateful that my son taught me this very important lesson on one of the saddest days of my life.

Later, when the wooden coffin arrived, he said, “Look, the boat has come to take thatha to God“. ¬†To me, this is one of the most beautiful¬†imagery¬†about passing on. We sail across the mysterious ocean of life and we move on to the ocean of eternal life. We don’t know if the winds are going to be rough or smooth but what we know is that we all travel through the waters of life and love.

 

Rape is not a hot topic

Rape is not a hot topic in India but a cruel reality. The widely spread news about the gang-rape and death of a young medical student in New Delhi in December 2012 has stirred an uproar in urban and rural India. The response from across the country stunned me as this particular incident stood out as a story of courage and struggle when hundreds of dalit women and children are raped and killed everyday in India. However, I am glad that people have come together to address rape culture and the struggle of this young woman has become a symbol of hope and courage. Every revolution has a beginning and this could be one..

Rape is not just happening in India. It happens everywhere and it happens every day. It is not just a sexual act of violence that is physical..it scars souls. I am not sure if this brutal act excites rapists sexually, but I am sure this is an act of power that men use to showcase their weak strength.  The power a man feels while raping a girl on a moving bus must be so thrilling that it overshadows the reality of life and respect. Not just respect for the woman but also his self-respect.

If the society treats women as mere objects of desire,¬†oppression, violence and sexual gratification, this is the lesson we are passing on to the next generation. We need to challenge the patriarchal system which blames women for getting raped and start promoting concepts of positive masculinities.¬†Our society¬†needs to empower men and liberate them from chains of patriarchy and power. To promote mutual respect and positive understanding of sexuality is a social responsibility and this can help put an end to all forms of sexual harassment. There are no easy answers but we can work towards making India a country where women’s rights become human rights and not just a dream. We have lots of good men..we just need more!

Love to love like a child!

Today is Children‚Äôs Day in India.¬†We all are aware of the amazing grace children have. They are blessed with unconditional grace ¬†to laugh open-heartedly, cry and scream with a passion, run fearlessly, pray with sincerity and love with a pure heart. Children have hearts that speak the truth and minds that follow their heart. They are already born with a mind to think which some people fail to understand. As Khaled Hosseini said, ‚ÄúChildren aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors‚ÄĚ. ¬†As¬†adults,¬†our responsibility is to teach them to think, to question and to say no¬†to people who hurt them. Sometimes, we overwhelm our children with excess love that we hold them back from reality.

I could write pages about how to love a child. I could also write pages about how people hurt children. According to the World Health Organization report on child abuse, approximately 20% of women and 5‚Äď10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 25‚Äď50% of all children report being physically abused. A recent research in India has shown that as many as 53 per cent, or one in every two children, are victims of child sexual abuse.¬†Sadly, many children are scarred for lives because of adults who strip their respect, dignity and their joy of life. In addition to educating children and encouraging them to be brave enough to say No to abuse, we need to be sensitive, vigilant and attentive to their little whispers of pain and signs of abuse.

When I asked Karthik (our three year old son), what love is, he once said that “love is like coffee‚Ķbecause you love coffee and you love me”. A child is born with enough love to teach us to love. And love for them is not about the most expensive toy you can buy but it is about teaching them to love life and to care for others. Let us love to love and be strong advocates for children’s rights. It is not only children that need to learn about their rights but adults who need to know that children are neither sex toys nor toy soldiers. They are born to live!

A heart of memories

Memories are sometimes the closest relationship we have ever had! They can bring smiles and warm our hearts and at the same time tear us apart. Past relationships swell up in the form of memories, some of which are hard to let go. Sometimes, it is the worst memories that grow on us and the pleasant ones slip away like fine sand through our fingers. A relation may end in good or bad terms but the memories linger on. Some of us try to paddle away from memories that hold us back from moving on but the harder we try, the faster they float back. And some other times, some good memories are like wine…maturing into something more crimson and ¬†bitter-sweet.

There are are many things that rekindle our memories: an anecdote, a nostalgic perfume, a torn picture, a movie, the lake front you shared a couple of beers with a friend, a hearty laughter that reminds you of your grandfather, a warm hug on a cold day from a distant friend, the song of your first dance and conversations that never ended. Friends and dear ones that leave us, never leave completely. They leave behind a piece of themselves and a piece of us. It is not possible to get over relationships or memories, because they were real at some point. But, it is important to let go of memories that hold us back from being ourselves and treasure the memories that make us smile.

Here is to memories…good and bad…memories that hold us together with friends from the past…memories that bring a smile to our heart!

Ascension by the lake

Today is Ascension Thursday and it is a public holiday in Geneva. The Feast of the Ascension, is a day that commemorates the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven. I also read that it is the 40th day after Easter Sunday.

We spent our Ascension holiday by the lake from 10.00 am with under blue skies, cumulonimbus clouds, dark blue waters, beautiful view of the magnificent Mont Blanc and three ducks wanting our food. Being there, experiencing the beauty of nature by just lying in the grass and soaking up the sun makes it a very special experience! Hope you had a blessed Ascension Day!