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  • Writer's pictureAarti Pole


Updated: Feb 7, 2019

The lasting impact of one action and the many lives forever changed.

She was orphaned before she even turned 12. The only person she had, was her older sister. The two were left without anyone to care for them in the 1930s in India. The outcome for young girls in that situation in an Indian village 90 years ago - typically wasn’t good. But life had much more in store for my grandmother.

Fate brought my grandfather’s family into the lives of these 2 orphans. My grandmother was taken in and put through school - after getting an education my grandparents were married. But the journey of that orphan girl wouldn’t end there.

From India to Uganda then to British Columbia - she spent some time working as a teacher, but she was dedicated to something she never knew growing up- being an extraordinary, loving mother. Our family is her life’s work - the little seed planted and nurtured by my grandparents grew into 6 children and their partners; 14 grandchildren and their partners; and 6 great grandchildren (plus one more on the way)!

Together she and my grandfather instilled the importance of education, hard work and keeping ties to your heritage in a country where our culture could have easily been lost. Their partnership shaped each one of us. But in 1997 - the partnership was broken, my grandfather passed away. Leaving my grandmother as the captain of our family’s ship. With grace and gratitude for the life that had chosen her - she steered us through smooth and rough seas and was always there to steady the wheel.

I was lucky enough to live with my grandmother since the age of 16. She was my second mother. Her sister, my mother and my sister with my grandmother were a little tribe. Three generations of women under one roof. She made me tea before school, scolded me when I watched too much tv and gave me advice on how to handle situations. She was subjected to 2 teenage girls growing up in an entirely different world than the one she knew - but she was patient, forgiving and progressive, she valued tradition but respected evolution and supported us through it all.

She was at all our graduations, dance performances, recitals and plays. Despite being sad about it, she celebrated with me when my post-graduate studies took me to Toronto. When I was moving to my first reporting job, again far from home - it was a stormy morning - the power went out. My grandmother, in the dark, packed up food for me to take and stood in the garage with a candle so we could load my luggage into the car.

When her diva granddaughter wanted to get married in Mexico, even though traveling at 93 was very difficult, she flew in discomfort to watch me say ‘I do’ in the scorching sun. She smiled, she laughed, she blessed me a thousand times over.

My grandmother has been a trooper her entire life - pushing past adversity and immense loss- the death of her parents at a young age, losing her husband, then her sister. She acquired new wisdom from each experience and we are fortunate that she shared some of that wisdom with us.

The last time I saw her was December 2018. She wasn’t doing well- I knew it might be the last time I saw this amazing woman who helped raise me. I just wanted to sit with her, in conversation or in silence. I regretted I hadn’t done more of just that when I came home to visit before. She laughed about the bedtime stories she used to tell us as kids and told me how proud she was of me. She kept asking me one thing: ‘Are you happy?’ With life, with work, in my marriage - she just wanted to know that I was happy.

She made me promise I would always find joy in my circumstances, that I would always choose to take the high road and she made me promise that I would take care of her daughter, my mom, who had been her house mate and caregiver for 20 years following my grandfather’s death.

94 years of wisdom taught her that all that really matters in the end- is happiness, compassion, and being there for the people you love. We are lucky that destiny had so much more planned for that little orphaned girl in India. We are lucky to have had her in our life for so long.

Love you Baa, thank you for everything.

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