The tree of life

When my centenarian father passed away, it was a sad day indeed. He had lived a full life, enjoyed the love and affection of those around him, but the fact that he was no more filled us with dejection. However, one elderly visitor suggested we should see father’s sojourn of a 104 years on this earth as a matter for celebration and not as an occasion for mourning. Perhaps he was right. However, his words left me sceptical at the time. A host of relatives were present to offer their condolences. Each one of them was trying to sum up father’s life.

A favourite nephew ventured that his discipline and principled ways of life was the secret of his longevity. While Govind was of the opinion that it was father’s native gene, his healthy stock that was the reason for his reaching a hundred years.

As the hearse moved away slowly, some of us stood at the gate, still trying to pin down father’s secret of life. More explanations came in. It was his love of small pleasures, his morning cup of coffee with the newspaper, his turn in the garden-- the list went on. Finally, my uncle turned to me and asked, ‘What do you think? What made your papa tick?’ I thought for a while. I looked up at the blue sky, the familiar road on which we had lived for more than half a century. We knew every house and the families residing there. Father never wanted to break the continuity of his life. America, the land to which his children had migrated, held no attraction for him.

Suddenly I saw this huge tree growing on the opposite sidewalk. It spread its leafy branches far and wide to offer a canopy of shade. I said to my uncle, “Well, do you see that tree standing tall and firmly rooted to the earth? And the million leaves that grow on its branches. His life was like that tree and his days were like those million leaves. As simple as that.” The group looked back at me in silence.

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