By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy
Panaji, July 6, 2019: Some people unexpectedly enter our hearts and remain there forever. They touch us through their words, smiles and actions. Through them, we experience God’s merciful, liberating, and transforming love.
During the past one year, four such people have left this world, leaving deep marks in the depths of my heart.
Let me list them in the order of their departures: Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur, Joseph Pandippilly, my aunt’s husband, Louis Rosario, a friend met on a train journey, and John Cherunilathinkara my mother’s brother.
When I left Nagpur in April last year for Rome, I had made sure that I greeted Archbishop Viruthakulangara (whom all called Archbishop Abraham) who was constantly on travels.
On April 19 morning, I found a message from my superior in Nagpur on my mobile in Rome. It began, “I am sorry to inform…” Since she seldom communicated through WhatsApp I was afraid that it was about someone dear to all of us. I was not ready to face the reality. So, I left the phone without reading the rest of the message and went for Mass.
After Mass I mustered enough courage to look at the message. The news was unexpected and shocking: Archbishop Abraham was no more.
I remember the day when I first met Archbishop Abraham. Two of us, Daughters of St Paul, in our 20s, were assigned for the itinerary diffusion of our publications in the newly erected diocese of Khandwa (Madhya Pradesh). We were new to the place and had informed Bishop Abraham about our plan to visit the place. We had informed him that we would stay in a convent near the station.
We were on our way to the convent when a small gentleman clad in kurta-pyjama stopped our auto at a gate. We did not know who he was. I was afraid although he was smiling. Just then I noticed the sign board –Bishop’s House.
“Now you will stop here. Have breakfast with us and then proceed to the convent,” he told us. I took him to be someone sent by the bishop and thanked God for such a thoughtful bishop. It was only when we reached the refectory that I realized that “the small gentleman” was indeed the bishop, who was laughing away at the dining hall, in his usual spontaneity.
Proud to admit my error I hid my ignorance.
That was my introduction to the joyful, fun-loving and caring Archbishop Abraham.
We carried out our mission in the diocese visiting families and schools in various mission stations.
While we were in the town where the Bishop’s House was located, the bishop and his secretary accompanied us to houses of various government officials who were delighted to select books of their choice from our rare collections.
Occasionally, the bishop visited the convent where we lived to enquire with the sisters about how we were faring in our mission. One day, we had gone to collect parcels from the office and returned late to the convent. The bishop was waiting with the sisters wondering what had happened to us. Because only they knew there was no bus service after 5 pm.
When we told them with delight that the bus ran only for us to bring us to our destination, they were shocked. We were the only two passengers with the conductor and driver. They gently briefed us about the danger of taking such a ride and walking the through the lonely and unlit bylane to the convent. After that the sisters and the members of Bishop’s House helped us some times with conveyance.
My uncle Joseph was very close to us — his caring and affectionate ways were the points of attraction. He was willing to reach out to anyone with any help, whether relatives or otherwise.
When I was 12 years old, I was with my grandmother who had undergone a surgery. For our lunch and dinner we would order one meal packet. Grandmother knew that I liked dry fish. One day, my aunt and uncle visited grandmother. When they were leaving grandmother told them to bring some fried dry fish if it was not a trouble. Next morning to my utter amazement, uncle arrived with a bottle of dry shark fried fish. We bought two packets of rice for lunch and dinner.
He was a person who would leave everything to attend to one in need. He treated everyone with kind words as well as sumptuous meals. He was eager to know about our congregation’s work, our life style and people we interacted. All this helped us reflect about our own life and relationship.
I met Louis Rosario during a train journey from Mumbai to Goa. The frail man sat on the side seat looking out the window for some time. I was not feeling well and my sister who accompanied me requested him to help me in case I needed it so.
Once we had settled on our seats he began to talk about him and his family. In between he also called his wife and daughter at home who told him “not to tire sister with his talks.” But I was not tired, but was rather inspired by his story. Once we reached Goa we promised to keep in touch. The following day he was at our house with his nephew holding invitation card of the wedding of his niece. It was in 2014. Ever since we, the sisters became part of his family in Mumbai as well as in Goa.
His life-story touched me. He was only 15 when he lost his father on board a ship. He never got to see his father again. The responsibility of looking after his mother and sister fell on his young shoulders. He did it with tuition along with his study from tenth grade. God blessed him with a job at Port Trust of Mumbai soon after his graduation.
He was married and had daughter of 10 years old, when his cousin suddenly died leaving his wife and 2-year-old son. Louis volunteered to look after them as the woman was without a job. He educated the boy not only academically but in values too. To improve in his studies he helped the young boy with tuitions after his working hours. He also promised occasional surprise gifts for his proficiency in studies. A flight to Goa was one of them which he fulfilled soon after he passed matriculation. How did he manage to maintain two families side by side? It was his generous and loving spirit.
Whenever I think of my uncle john, I recall myself as a 5-year-old sitting on his shoulders clutching his head as he walked fast the eight miles from my house to my mother’s house. It was so during every annual school holidays when he took me and my sister to his house. He would carry the younger one. He was never tired of carrying us. I think his love for his sister made the weight light. On the way we stopped to refresh ourselves with a glass of lime juice and sweets which were a rare commodity available on the way at that time.
In the later years when he was confined to the house due to old age and illness, I made it sure that I visited him whatever the time constraint.
These great people live in my memory as examples of care and love. Relationships are built on the rocks of love, joy and contentment. They taught me and continue to inspire me. When there is love everything is possible. The little that we have becomes abundant. I believe they have left something of it for me.