My Grandfather’s Funeral
You would tuck me in and kiss me on the forehead and ask: “Happy-happy?” And I was happy. I was happy walking with you to the grocery store for ice-cream cones and running through the back yard as you sprayed us with the hose, the water cascading and sparkling in the summer sun. I was happy watching you carefully wrap my school-books out of brown paper bags or cutting us fresh cantaloupe with utter precision. I was happy handing you my latest poem to tuck away in the file you kept of all my writings and learning how to underline my favorite sentences in books just like you. I was happy running from you when you became the tickle monster, and I was happy jumping into the bed next to you when I was sad. You would stroke my hair and I would gaze at your perfect ivory feet until I fell asleep. You were the pillar of wisdom in my whole existence, my constant companion and my source of truth, my playmate and my teacher.
I asked you, “What is your last wish at the time of death?”
“That I should be able to smile with all the people around me present at that time. That I could give a smile to all the people around me. This is the only wish I have. I want to go smiling to my master. Wailing and all that, this is worldly and serves no purpose. It does not do any good. So worldly attachments end. We should accept the end happily.”
The hot wind does not even touch one who is under the Protection of God.
On all four sides I am surrounded by God’s Circle of Protection; pain does not afflict me, O Siblings of Destiny.
I have met the Perfect True Guru, who has done this deed.
He has given me the medicine of God’s Name, and I enshrine love for the One Lord.
God has saved me, and eradicated all my sickness.
Says Nanak, God has showered me with His Mercy; He has become my help and support.
[Guru Arjan, SGGS, 819:16]
After the war, he transferred to Kashmir, Sikkim, Bangalore, and Joshi Math, where the music of the river Ganges stirred new passions in him and he began to write poetry. Shortly after Papa Ji survived the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, he immigrated to the United States to live with his daughter Dolly and her family in Clovis, CA. In his new home, he worked at the office of Senior Citizens, tended a blooming garden, read and wrote fervently, and published three books of poetry in Punjabi, Urdu, and English. His life work in poetry won many honors, including recognition by the Punjabi Literary Society of Fresno and the Punjabi University of Patiala. In 2002, Papa Ji returned to India to rebuild his family’s house in Patiala, Punjab, so that his grandchildren would always have a home in their ancestral land.
Papa Ji lived by example: his deep faith in God as his companion, his child-like wonder for the world, and his pure joy even in the darkest moments of his illness inspired all who met him. His life flourished as the great tree he played under as a child and will continue to offer shade and wisdom to all who knew him.
“No jewel leaves its mine willfully, they are forced out. And once out they are subject to cutting, chipping, buffing, and a lot of harsh treatment. Be a jewel and become more precious after harsh treatment.” (CGS, USA, July 10, 1989)
Papa Ji is survived by his wife of 62 years Joginder Kaur, his three children (pictured below) and their spouses: Manjit and Jasbir Sandhu, Jagmit and Sukhwinder Gill, and Dolly and Judge Brar. He will always be loved and adored by his grandchildren Jyoti, Neetu, Valarie, Sanjeev, Amandeep, Ginny, and Simran. The family thanks the doctors and nurses at Clovis Community Hospital who took care of him and the friends who made him smile in his last days.