It’s through dance that I found what you would call faith. Because I was not a religious, and I’m not a religious person but yes I have faith, I believe. Tell me about a time you felt you had to rely upon that faith? The moment when my father’s dying in my arms. Even in that moment I knew he’s going. It was tough for both of us, tougher for him because he was fighting it and I was like “Don’t fight it, go peacefully.” I was just trying to call whatever I knew I could call to help. “Go peacefully. I mean it’s tough, tough on us, tough on you.” And there was a moment, the moment you leave, there was a sound there was a sensation in the sternum. It was like a “pop”- and I don’t know whether if it was his soul or my soul what? It was just a click, a pop. And that was, he was gone.
I met Dodo (Faradoon Bujwala) in Mumbai and it is hard to be in his presence and not be affected by his love of life and people. Born and raised Zoroastrian, Dodo has migrated to a belief in the Divine that spans all living beings not limited by but actually enhanced by his upbringing. As his father lay dying in his arms, he recalled one of the Zoroastrian prayers that his father needed to hear and was surprised that his son remembered! I was deeply moved by Dodo’s story of his father’s death and being present to the very final moments of his life.
I am sad that I was not present for my own father’s death 3 years ago. It was something I always hoped to be present for and to hold his hand as he took his last breath. My father died in the middle of the night, about 1am, lying in hospice alone. I saw my father the night before and kissed his forehead, blessing him on his journey ahead. But I never knew that would be the last time I would see him.
Years ago I participated in the Jewish ritual of “Chevra Kadisha,” preparing a body for burial with the ritual purification and clothing in shrouds (men do this for men and women for women). It was a profoundly meaningful and difficult task that I took on as part of my grieving for my friend Elisa Levine who died as a teenager and which I was trying to process. Preparing the dead for burial is considered the highest mitzvah (good deed) in Judaism because it can never be repaid. The act of being present for those dying I presume to be among the most sacred tasks we can perform as well. In some ways it reminds me of this entire Portraits In Faith journey which has been a journey in learning how to be present and listen. Being there for my father the night before he died was similar. All I could do was love him and be present to his process. I am realizing as I write this that this is all we can really do for each other anyway all through life—Love others and be present. Everything else is just an illusion of power or control. Thank you to Dodo for the gift of sharing his love and being present.