Friday, February 8, 2019

My untiring, ever smiling mom- Lethisia Veigas

Mom on her golden marriage day
My mom Lethisia (Rodrigues) Veigas (1944-2019), aged 75, passed away in our family home in Kalyaradda of Badyar Parish after having lived 56 years of married life with my dad Athus Veigas on 07 February 2019.  She leaves behind her husband Athus Veigas and half a dozen children, Raphael, Marcel, Philip, Fr Jerome SJ, Sr Irene BS and Fr Olvin SJ. 

My mom was a person of simplicity and amicability.  With a broad smile she won the hearts of all our Hindu neighbors, Muslim customers in our shops, Christian faithful in our parish and a large band of relatives.  Mom was very active in the parish life of Badyar Church.  Bring a member of the “Sodality of Our Lady of Sorrows” and the “Third Order of Franciscans”, she was actively involved in its activities either in the parish level or deanery level along with her husband, Athus.  She was so much attached to the Church and its community life. When she had to forgo going to Mass on Sundays to a parish because she had to be with me in an apartment in Ernaculam/Kochi taking care of her sick priest son, she felt something missing, even though her son did private Masses for her.  For her relationship meant a lot.  It had to be lived actively in a practical way.  Sunday’s was the day she looked forward as she could meet her contemporaries and others.  She would often express her dissatisfaction of being unable to be with her parishioners especially when her health deteriorated in the last few months.

Mom’s end came in a very powerful way symbolising how her deep faith in Christ and devotion to Rosary could bring such a happy death.  I had reached home around 6.30 in the evening of 07th February 2019 from Bangalore.  After spending an hour and half with mom, we decided to say the family Rosary. Just as mom was so well disposed to evening prayer in everyday of her life, on this day  she ended her earthly life during the evening prayer at 8.30 PM. 

Mom was a woman of great faith and prayer.  She was the one who taught us all the first Christian prayers and prepared for first communion.  She had a beautiful voice.  Her voice could be heard so well in every prayer meetings and other liturgies of the Church.  I have recorded some of the old Christian hymns and other folkloric songs while planting the paddy and could be found on YouTube.

Mom loved to have friendship with all.  She made no difference whether a person is rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim. She kept up the friendship by meeting them or inquiring about them often.  The number of our neighbors or acquaintances of our family came to visit her in the last two months while she is bedridden is simply amazing.  Practically everyday we had visitors to her in spite of our house being far away from the town. 

Mom was a learner, in fact an active learner.  In 1979, we got our first 5 HP Cooper diesel motor pump to irrigate our land and with that dad established a small rice mill.  She learnt the skill of turning on the wheels of this heavy machine in starting it and then working on the “Huller” (rice mill).  In one hour, the Huller would prepare 120 kilos of rice. The speed at which the things had to be worked out during that process is simply treacherous and would put the person’s stamina, energy and patience into check.  Mom would do this work singlehandedly as all of us her six children were in the school and our senior grand parents at home.  Mom had the amazing capacity and curiosity to learn.  Even though, she had finished only the 5th grade schooling in her village school in 1956, she  learnt quickly to manage the digital mobile system which is purely in English. 

Mom & dad on their golden marriage day in 2013
Mom was a generous person. Just like the saying in the Bible that it is in giving that one finds more joy and not in receiving, so too, Mom, experienced true joy in giving.  Dad being a bit disciplinarian, for anything and everything all of us went to mom for permissions or things that we wanted from dad.  Whoever came to our home seeking some material assistance or saw someone needed her help, she was always ready to listen and help.

I always learnt something new from my mom as well as my other four brothers and one sister.  We felt always happy to say something about her.  We enjoyed her good company as she got older and sicknesses made their home in her.  Whenever, we three religious, (Fr Jerome, Sr Irene and I) came home on home visit we had our dinners together in our ancestral home, then we would sit in our front portico of our home and enjoy the fun.  Henceforth, we will be missing this very greatly. 

Mom was a charming lady.  When I got terribly sick and had to receive treatment in almost solitary confinement so that I don’t get infection, mom stayed with me for 7 months.  These were the months I came to know really who the mom was, what a mother can do to a half alive son to rejuvenate.  Even though, mom knew nothing of Malayalam she would converse in Kannada with the neighbors of our apartment where we were staying. They understood her Kannada and my mom neighbour’s Malayalam.  Many said to me that even though they were staying there for quite many years, they did not know each other but mom within a short span of time had won their hearts with her enthusiasm and simplicity.  Within no time they had become her friends.  This is what baffled me so much. 

One of the most enticing thing that I saw in mom and admired for, is her ability and patience to suffer.  She suffered greatly as her health deteriorated over the years and the symptoms kept on increasing and multiplying. She bore everything in patience and forbearance.  She offered everything to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Surely, mother was a humble, distinct and unique person and now I’ll have to relive those wonderful moments that I spent with her. 

Dear  mai, goodbye for the moment,  but you will be always my mai and forever! (Mai=Mother in Konkani)

- Fr Olvin Veigas, SJ
08 February 2019
Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita