My mother was born in India of Euro-Asian descent. At the time, Pondicherry was a French Protectorate with a very vibrant and strong Catholic community.
Devoutly Catholic, she affixed crucifixes above doors and kept statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus by her bed. She also ensured there were statues of Vishnu and Lakshmi and other gods all around the house, just in case.
The words of a prayer were never far from her lips, especially if one of us four children lost something or tested her patience (read mostly me). Where I was concerned, it didn’t take much provocation for her to quickly launch into a prayer to St. Jude, the Saint of Lost Causes.
I remember once, we were camping and my sister and I were using one of my father’s favourite camping pots as a bucket. We would scoop water out of the river and then throw the water back in as if it were raining. I was scooping and throwing and accidentally let the bucket go as I was throwing the water back in. I remember watching, aghast, as the bucket bobbed along the surface of the water, out of reach. My mother made me pray with her to St. Jude and a few minutes later, the pot was found safely tucked in between two rocks a bit further downstream. She was convinced it was St. Jude answering our prayers, just as she was convinced, God and St. Jude would never give up on me.
Yesterday, I read Agah Shahid Ali’s poem, “Lenox Hill” which arrived in my Inbox via The Poetry Foundation. Reading his powerful and provocative words, I was reminded of my mother and her many gods and goddesses and her deep abiding faith in the God of her faith.
This poem was born…
She Could Not Let The Gods Die By Louise Gallagher Tired now, she prayed feverishly to her Lord God of her faith committed to following His way to the other side. It was the way of the cross she’d carried away from the land of her birth when she’d left to follow the way of a man who appeared like one of the gods she could not let die. She carried her faith like a cross but could not let the gods of her land of birth die just in case. You never know when you might need a god of another colour she whispered into the shroud of mystery that encircled her in the dead of night. You never know who will meet you at the door of Heaven or Hell or Svarga loka. And when the time came for her to pass over through the gates of an unseen world she held tight to the rosary she’d carried with her from the land of her birth as her lips silently moved, praying feverishly for her soul to achieve enlightenment. I have never let you die, she whispered with her dying breath where karma met Moksha on the way of the cross releasing her from all earthly ties free to live in peace forever on the other side.