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Mourning the loss

Message given at the event of Dr.Gift Siromoney entering God's glory.

Lord Jesus says," In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33b).

I had to sit my final Honours examination around the 20th March in 1961. On Sunday, the 26th February three weeks before exams I attended the morning service at St. Mark's Church, Broadway in Madras. The priest, the Rev. Peace B. David, one of my dear uncles whom I came to know rather intimately later on, preached at that service on the life to come and the service ended with a closing hymn,
Oft In Danger, Oft in Woe

Let not sorrow dim your eye,
Soon shall every tear be dry;
Let not fears your course impede,
Great your strength, if great your need.

Onward then in battle move;
More than conquerors ye shall prove;
Though opposed by many a foe,
Christian soldiers, onward go.

After the service I returned to my room with great hurry only to receive a telegram from my father at Nazareth (in Tirunelveli District) conveying that my mother, who was only 47, passed away that morning and the funeral was at 5 p.m. the same day. I couldn't make the trip to Nazareth from Madras, as I could not have participated at the funeral anyway. Subsequently several of my teachers, including Dr.J.R.Macphail and Rev. V.M.Thomas, and friends wrote letters with comforting messages. One friend has written: "Thomas, God could not have committed any mistake in your life; You must continue to do what your dear mother would have liked you to do. She would have least desired for you to weep for her especially since she has only conquered death with God's grace". I could understand that life has special meaning especially now with my mother joining the cloud of witnesses surrounding myself. That meaning became evident with all stark reality when I shared this hope of communion with saints with a Nigerian student of this Hall, as his warden some years ago, who had received three days earlier that his dear father had died. By sharing our experience in Christ with others especially those in sorrow, we may find greater meaning of the deathless life in Christ.

The message is this: we must continue to do what our dear ones departed would like us to do. Last two weeks we were praying intensely many times every day, pleading with the Lord before His throne of grace through the nights that if it is His will to spare the life here and now of our beloved Gift annan for some more years. But God's will was different from what we had all with one mind desired, for Dr.Gift had foreknowledge and had already answered God's call in the affirmative. As Dr.Kurien pointed out, for some months he sang regularly the Nunc Dimities, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace", telling us clearly that his earthly pilgrimage was completed and that he would depart soon from all moorings of this world to the other shore and join the triumphant church. There is no ambiguity on the other shore in prayer, as we know Abelard's words;

Wish and fulfillment can severed be ne'er,
Nor the thing prayed for come short of the prayer.

When Jesus says 'take heart, I have overcome the world', we have confidence because he destroyed death on the cross. The most frustrating and hopeless situation in human history should have been the cross; but what has been changed as the very foundation or basis of hope for all his followers. He has overcome the world and all its conflicts on the cross and has already shared his victories of sufferings with his disciples who have been called to take up their cross and follow him.

We know it for certain that Dr.Gift need not any longer suffer pain or sickness or any other adversary of this earthly pilgrimage. He reminds us that the life on this earth is temporary and transient and that we need to live for higher and nobler values of life here and now. Dr.Gift was an embodiment of all the lovely and excellent things which MCC stands/ought to stand for. The world did its worst to our Master, but he had overcome the world. Even at this time of grief and sorrow and death, He tells us, "take heart or be of good cheer; I have overcome the world". Let us note that the Person Jesus, who gives this comforting word is the Unchanging One Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Though all sovereign rule of this world would change and pass away, let us be thankful to the King of kings and the Lord of lords in whom we have received the unshakable kingdom. We need to thank God for Dr.Gift for his distant vision of the Department and of the College with all his interest on distant stars, archaeology or epigraphy, of the distant past and also for his delightful interest in ordinary and immediate neighbors, with all love for varieties of grass, flowers, butterflies and the opinion of people on political and social issues. He loved and showed interest on extra ordinary things such as comets, nebula, and new research publications and on very ordinary and mundane matters of state politics and on the welfare of the Narikuravas.

Life at best is very brief,
Like the falling of a leaf,
Like the binding of a sheaf.

What our dear Annan has stood for is quality or excellence even in this very brief life and for values, which do not perish. Paul says, "Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been understood so faith, hope and love abide; these three, but the greatest of these is love". Dr. Gift is not lost to the family, to the colleagues and to the generations of students. The values, which he has already imparted, shall abide in the thought and lives of all of us, bringing forth tremendous and incalculable fruits for God's greater glory!

In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world Praise be to thee, O Christ!

Daniel J.T.K (B.A. (Hons), Mathematics 1957-60, Colleague: 1966-88)
Formerly: Principal Serampore College (1990-98), West Bengal.
Currently: Christian Theology and Pastoral ministry at Tambaram.

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