You would tuck me in and kiss me on the forehead and ask: “Happy-happy?” And I was happy. I was happy walking with you to the grocery store for ice-cream cones and running through the back yard as you sprayed us with the hose, the water cascading and sparkling in the summer sun. I was happy watching you carefully wrap my school-books out of brown paper bags or cutting us fresh cantaloupe with utter precision. I was happy handing you my latest poem to tuck away in the file you kept of all my writings and learning how to underline my favorite sentences in books just like you. I was happy running from you when you became the tickle monster, and I was happy jumping into the bed next to you when I was sad. You would stroke my hair and I would gaze at your perfect ivory feet until I fell asleep. You were the pillar of wisdom in my whole existence, my constant companion and my source of truth, my playmate and my teacher.
After the war, he transferred to Kashmir, Sikkim, Bangalore, and Joshi Math, where the music of the river Ganges stirred new passions in him and he began to write poetry. Shortly after Papa Ji survived the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, he immigrated to the United States to live with his daughter Dolly and her family in Clovis, CA. In his new home, he worked at the office of Senior Citizens, tended a blooming garden, read and wrote fervently, and published three books of poetry in Punjabi, Urdu, and English. His life work in poetry won many honors, including recognition by the Punjabi Literary Society of Fresno and the Punjabi University of Patiala. In 2002, Papa Ji returned to India to rebuild his family’s house in Patiala, Punjab, so that his grandchildren would always have a home in their ancestral land.
Papa Ji lived by example: his deep faith in God as his companion, his child-like wonder for the world, and his pure joy even in the darkest moments of his illness inspired all who met him. His life flourished as the great tree he played under as a child and will continue to offer shade and wisdom to all who knew him.
“No jewel leaves its mine willfully, they are forced out. And once out they are subject to cutting, chipping, buffing, and a lot of harsh treatment. Be a jewel and become more precious after harsh treatment.” (CGS, USA, July 10, 1989)
Papa Ji is survived by his wife of 62 years Joginder Kaur, his three children (pictured below) and their spouses: Manjit and Jasbir Sandhu, Jagmit and Sukhwinder Gill, and Dolly and Judge Brar. He will always be loved and adored by his grandchildren Jyoti, Neetu, Valarie, Sanjeev, Amandeep, Ginny, and Simran. The family thanks the doctors and nurses at Clovis Community Hospital who took care of him and the friends who made him smile in his last days.
Hi, my name is Sarah. I am 24 years old, and I lost my grandad last year to cancer. Growing up, I wasn't really as close to my grandad as I was to my Nan, but over the last few years I did get really close to him. He only found out he had cancer about 10 weeks before he went, and my Nan spent the last 4 weeks of his life looking after him because she wouldn't allow him to go in a hospice because he wouldn't have wanted to. The cancer robbed him of his pride and dignity then eventually his life. He just seemed to give up when he was fitted with a colostomy bag. He told me the day before he went that he was ready. I believe I am truly blessed to have had him in my family.
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© Sarah Harrison
Published: September 2009
So heaven has received another angel
The night sky another star
Your life has become a loving memory
I know you will never be far.
I know you are watching over me
As my life goes on
I will treasure the memories I have of you
I can't believe you're gone.
You were a loving, caring grandad
You were there for me a lot
You will always hold a place in my heart
A loving treasured spot
You were really one in a million
A cut above the rest
All that knew you would agree
You simply were the best.
So grandad I will say goodbye
I love and miss you with all my heart
But as long as I have my loving memories
We will never be too far apart.
written for Billy Harrison who died 26th July 2007
Goodbye, Grandad SIMPLY THE BEST