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Kirpan

EK ONG KAAR KAUR

 

 

 

It was a few days before Mother's Day, and I drove to our local Hallmark store to get a card for my mom.

Hallmark is one of those chain stores that have a location here in Espanola (New Mexico, USA), even though most days you do not see too many cars in the parking lot. They have a flower arranging service that I suspect brings them more sales than the cards on display.

But a couple times of the year, the Hallmark store gets busy. Valentine's Day is one such occasion. Mother's Day is another.

I popped into the store, found a nice card for my mother, and walked to the checkout line. Two older Hispanic women were overseeing the counter.

When it was my turn to pay, one of the women noticed the steel and lapis kirpan necklace hanging around my neck.

"What is that?" she asked me."I have never seen anything like that before."

"It is a kirpan," I explained. "One of the Sikh articles of faith. It is about being willing to defend the weak, to protect those who cannot defend themselves."

"I need one of those," the woman behind the counter said, laughing.

But her companion did not laugh. Instead, her eyes became misty. Her face --  very serious.

"Do you know Gurudarshan?" she asked me. "She gave one of those necklaces to my son. We buried him wearing it."

Her words penetrated my heart.

Mother's Day was right around the corner, after all.

"Yes, I know Gurudarshan," I replied. "Your son passed away?"

The woman nodded. "A couple years ago."

I didn't ask any questions about how or why he died. In this part of the world, young men die too often for completely senseless reasons. Drugs. Gun fights. Knife fights. Car accidents.

I looked her in the eyes and said. "I am so sorry for your loss. Mother's Day must be difficult for you."

The woman nodded, a couple of tears falling down her face. Tears came to my eyes, as well, and I started to cry with her. Then she reached out and hugged the woman who had asked about the necklace in the first place.

"She lost her son, too."

The three of us shared a moment of silence there in the Hallmark store.

Silence for these mothers who had lost their children.

Silence for all of the mothers who would not get their card on Mother's Day. Or the flowers, the gifts or the phone calls. I thought about the sons who die. In wars. On the streets. For a good reason, or bad, or for no reason at all. I thought about the daughters, too. And how they leave behind mothers whose love will never forget them.

It is the unspoken shadow of motherhood. The pain, the loss, and the grief. A mother will carry any tragedy that happens to her children with her for her entire life.

Perhaps that it is why, it is said, a mother's prayer has the most power with the Divine.

My heart ached for these women as I left the store. And I asked myself, "Why has it never occurred to me that Mother's Day includes all those mothers whose children are no longer with them?"

For two days, I have been trying to finish this essay. And for some reason, I cannot find the ending. I only feel my own blindness, stumbling through this landscape of life.

What a paradox. To be buying a card for my mother one minute, and to be sharing the grief of two mothers who lost their children, the next. Maybe this is what Mother's Day should be -- a reminder of the tragedies that women go through when something terrible happens to their children.

There, in the heart of the mothers, is written the collective failure of society. The talent that goes to waste. The life ended by violence or war. The injustices. The imprisonment. All the ways that human society falls short of delivering what the soul is promised. These stories and experiences get etched into the hearts of our mothers.

Perhaps that is why the kirpan is so important. Because it is a symbol that when we fight for justice, for equality, for opportunity, for peace -- it is sacred work. It is a true kindness. To stand up for the dignity of human life, for the preciousness of it.

So that every mother could one day know her child has the opportunity to blossom and bloom into his or her full human potential .

May 16, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 16, 2013, 4:39 AM.

What a moving chance encounter with mothers who had lost their sons. It is difficult to imagine the loss, anguish and grief. Sharing tears with them would have brought some respite to the aching hearts.

2: Kirpal Singh (Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A.), May 16, 2013, 8:04 AM.

Dear Ek Ong Kaar ji, you have added new significance to the meaning of the kirpan in my mind. Thank you for your beautiful article.

3: Gurukarm Kaur (Millis, Massachusetts, USA), May 16, 2013, 10:51 AM.

Your witness and your willing sharing of the grief of these mothers was profoundly kind, jio. Thank you for writing about it, and for bringing to our attention the greater issue. I am deeply grateful that my children are all still in the world.

4: Sukhbinder Singh  (London, United Kingdom), November 28, 2013, 4:17 AM.

Brought tears to my eyes. I will forever look at Mother's Day in a new light as a celebration of all mothers. Waheguru!

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