I was four.
The mountains were covered in snow.
I remembered the snow.
It’s easy to avoid thinking about the meaning of life. Covid made me think. I had the virus. Quarantine. It affected me mentally and physically. I’m a sportsman, inactivity doesn’t suit me. It is unthinkable to me. Forced to be sedentary, I had lots of time to ponder. I dug into my past. I reviewed my own mental and emotional scars. There were some big ones.
Six months ago on a Saturday night, movie night, I sat in the hall of the boy’s hostel waiting to watch “Home Alone.” It was just a wacky-crazy movie about a little boy, Kevin, who was home alone. He ends up being the hero by thwarting thieves and making fools of them while he is home alone. In this particular movie, it’s Christmas. That is the very best time of year at Shishya where I live in the hostel. It’s full of love and joy and filled with fun and laughter and song. It’s the absolute best. And that’s why my thoughts unconsciously took a diversion as I watched this movie.
Kevin was angry with his mom throughout the whole movie. He ended up lost in New York City and began to miss his mother. He longed to see her again. At the end of the movie, he is stood in front of an enormous Christmas tree and prayed, “God, I want to see my mother again.” He turned around and she’s standing right there. He throws his arms around her and hugs her.
That was the first time, after so many years, I felt like I needed a hug from my mom. I don’t know why it happened, but when my mom died, we were told, “you need to be strong.” So, hearing that, it made me think and understand “I don’t have anyone,” and now “I need to be strong by myself.”
As Kevin turned around and saw his mother, I saw mine, too. She was right in front me. I was only four years old and living with my family in the mountains. As I lay on the bed with my siblings, the kitchen door flung open and she ran out screaming—completely on fire. From the kitchen she ran through the room and out the front door. I saw her fly past me engulfed in flames… my mother. I tried to run and grab her, but some adults grabbed me. They held me so I couldn’t move.
No, it didn’t help me, but the movie jogged my memory. That scene in the movie, after so many years, made me remember my mom. Before that, I hardly thought of her. It was like my memory-bank had been wiped out. Her memory was buried there, but I didn’t want drag it out. The memory was too painful, too sensitive to recall. I couldn’t share it with anyone.
My dad was sent to jail for seven years, because the police blamed him. I don’t know why they thought he was guilty—just because no one else was there to blame. It seems odd that my memory was jolted from watching an outlandish Hollywood movie. But it happened. By the time I saw the movie, I’d had some time to grow up. Now I wanted that memory. I realized that I missed my mother. It was not a nice memory, but it was my mother. I loved her no matter what. She committed suicide and my dad went to jail for 7 years. I was too little to understand anything then, and now I still don’t understand. But I know that God loves me. No matter what. He gives me his undivided attention, always. I shoved my mother into a locked, dark, depressive memory cupboard. Now I understand I need her, no matter what had happened, no matter why it happened. I want to love my mother unconditionally, like God loves me.
When I pulled my mother out of the cupboard, it somehow freed my father. I still find it hard to talk to him, but I didn’t need him in my homemade jail. I had peace. There was light in my heart, not darkness. Everything was in the open, where it needs to be. That is what I thought about when I was forced to ponder during quarantine. I cried out to God regularly and felt the pain of others whose situations were far worse than mine.
In my pain I needed to reach out to others. Relationships which needed mending were repaired. I learned to trust God for not just the future, but also the past; rather than be scared of it. I needed God daily. And I thanked God daily for all my blessings… even the unseen, unrealized blessings which are many. It’s part of trusting God and knowing that he loves me.
During quarantine, I kept walking—even when the world had stopped. Joy squeezed into places where it hadn’t been invited. I deliberately opened the door to it. When joy forced its way into the locked room of unwanted memories, it unsheathed its double- edged sword and, in an instant, conquered the fear that had left years of dark shadows in my life. The darkness, a heavy depressive darkness, just ran out the door and light flooded in. Light, or joy… or both; I’m not sure. They seemed to be the same thing.
The best lesson I learned was to be happy being “me,” (not the hero, not a sportsman). I am not just a face in the crowd; I am me, Sushil; the best version that God made. In God’s eyes, I am perfect. Can’t get better than that.
Covid and quarantine created opportunities surprise opportunities for me to change my life. I was thankful for a place of safety and food, a place to play sports, and the sunsets at Shishya. Not everyone has such luxuries. And I have friends, I have people who love me, I have God. I don’t need to be strong all by myself.
In the end, the feeling of ecstasy and freedom when you come out of quarantine—was AMAZING.
“I’ve made up my mind. Until the darkness disappears and the dawn has fully come,
in spite of shadows and fears, I will go to the mountaintop with you—
the mountain of suffering love and the hill of burning incense.”
Song of Songs 4:6