Yesterday was my grandmother’s funeral. I miss her so much. The sting of death is terrible, even if it takes someone at a ripe, old age. This is the eulogy that I shared at the funeral – for those of you who couldn’t make it. Life is too precious. Peace, and much love to you – Jeevo.
In 2009 I was recording my 2nd studio album – Zer0 & 1ne. The day it was getting mixed and mastered, my brother and I went to visit my grandmother at her convalescent home. I had a funny feeling about the album – a feeling you get when you know something is just not quite finished. I had a melody running in my head, but wasn’t sure why a melody kept playing over and over in my mind. Afterall, my album was done – a new song was the last thing I wanted. I put my dissatisfaction of the album aside, and walked into the room where my grandmother was staying. In the last 2 years, you never quite knew which side of her you would get – the alert one, the talkative one, the stubborn one, or the funny one :-). This time, we got an extremely alert and reflective side of her. It was the woman we knew while growing up – bright, profound, witty, and stubborn. Even though her stubbornness would often times drive me crazy, I appreciated this the most about her. Her stubbornness meant that she was willing to remain unmoved when others imposed their way on her. Her stubbornness meant that she would outlive most of her peers and every one of her immediate family members. Her stubbornness meant that she believed in what she believed – and no one was going to tell her otherwise. Her stubbornness was sometimes offensive – because your emotional response to her never quite swayed her.
Before leaving, my brother and I prayed with her, as we often times did. She graciously accepted the prayer b/c we were her grandsons – her Christian grandsons for that matter – and she loved us very much. We could do no wrong in her eyes, which we sometimes took advantage of. After we prayed, she smiled and looked me directly in the eyes and said “Thambi, there is no God. How can you believe in Jesus, when you can’t see Him.” I smiled back at her, because I could see her wrestling with eternity, in the midst of her appalling statement. This led to a one hour conversation about why she felt there was no God. It was a conversation I will never forget. It was a moment that defined most of what I do as a musician. I called the engineer who was mixing my album and told him to stop. I had one more song that was meant to be on my album. This song would be called “Jesus Ain’t Real.”
Needless to say, the song caused much controversy. A few producers I worked with refused to put their names on the album, because they couldn’t be a part of a project that had “Jesus Ain’t Real” as a title. Of course they made up their mind before they heard the song. Just like most of us do – we make up our minds before we enter into the wrestling. We make up our minds about what religion, profession, identity, and family values we have before we enter into the struggle. Most of us don’t want to pay a price for anything – we just accept what was handed down to us – what our heritage implies. So if you are here today and remember this song ” Jesus Ain’t Real” – you can blame my then 91 year old grandma for giving me the idea.
My grandmother refused to yield to what society expected of her. She always told us to do what our heart told us to – whether or not people liked it. She was supportive – no matter what you did. She tried her best to understand what you did, and if she couldn’t quite understand because of the cultural differences, she would smile and find the depth in it anyway. I suppose this is not always a good thing – but it worked for us. And it taught me how to deal with things that I couldn’t quite understand, or even agree with. You don’t have to water down your beliefs and values to support people. You don’t have to take the fire you have in you and put it aside to get along with people that are not like you. My grandmother taught me that you can be exactly who you are, but still have the capacity to love and support those around you.
I want to be able to do this more – in her memory. I want to love all my friends and family – in the way that God wants me to love – whole heartedly, genuinely, truly, and radically. The problem is, most of you all are completely different from me. You have your own set of values and beliefs – your own way of living. How can I love you all to the best of my ability, but still put up with all your weaknesses, differences, and shortcomings? At funerals, everyone always says “Rest in peace.” But in the spirit of my grandmother, I question this. I can’t take this at face value. What is the point of resting in peace, if you can’t live in peace. I don’t know about you – but I don’t want to wait until I’m dead to have peace. I want to experience peace right now. A peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that is unfazed by the constant up and down of life – by the constant struggles that we face – by the overachieving expectations that we put on ourselves – by every foul word that someone says about you – through it all, I want peace.
When my grandma told me that there was no God, I think she was getting at a very profound truth. She was telling me that she wasn’t experiencing God at that time of her life. She was telling me that the reality of a supposed God wasn’t evident in her soul – in her life – and she wanted to talk about it. She wanted to express herself to her grandchildren who seemed to vouch for God ALL the time – even when He did the most ridiculous and unconventional things. What she wanted was radical proof that a God exists – that Jesus was in fact real.
Sometimes, the ones that vouch for Jesus don’t have the cookie cutter answer to fire back. I wish I had better answers for her that day, but she seemed to still appreciate them. Today, I believe my grandma’s legacy is this: To lead us all into wrestling with God – to sort out for ourselves if He in fact is real. So this may be atypical for a Eulogy, but I want all of you to close your eyes. In your heart, I want you to think of the most impossible situation in your life – and I want you to put it in the forefront of your brain – the area in your life that you feel the most hopeless – it could be a broken relationship, it could a financial mess, it could be that you don’t feel like you have a future – And I want you in your head, to repeat this question with me: “Dear God, if you are real, show yourself to me before the end of the week. And if you do, I will have the courage to believe in you.”
May we stubbornly wrestle with our souls – may we stubbornly seek truth – may we stubbornly love one another and live in peace with each other, even when we don’t feel like it. May we spur each other to make new songs, even when we think the album is finished.
I love you mammamah – may you rest in peace, and may we all live in peace in your honor. God Bless you.