Today was my mother-in-law’s annual shradh. Or whatever you call that once-a-year ceremony praying for peace for the departed soul. So I was up pretty early getting things ready and all. By and by other family members dropped in. By and by they left.

The room was quiet and still; the smell of incense and flowers permeated the air. My husband sat at the puja, on his right was the family priest. I chose a spot on the floor where I could lean back on the sofa and yet be of use if required. I had woken early, I guess I was also mentally stressed and physically tired, these occasions have a way of doing that to you. I leaned my head on the sofa, I rested my head on a bony knee. I felt a hand on my head smooth the hair from my face. I almost heard a whisper that everything will be alright.

You see, I then realised, that unconsciously, the spot I chose to lean on is the spot always occupied by my father-in-law during these pujas. He died last November. But I’m certain he still sits in with us and is nearby at times like these. I like to think that the souls of those who love us never really go away. They wait for us, for when we may need them.

And the thought gives me solace.

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