04:00AM EST (eastern standard time) waking up from a slumber to check my phone, excited to see some of my birthday messages..... was a message and a missed call wedged between all other messages from my dad:
"Hi Kishen we just receive news that Vijay passed away had a heart attack after playing squash"
At first I was befuddled trying to comprehend and make sense of this for second or so, and just to make sure of my understanding, I WhatsApp called my dad to to confirm that what I had read was indeed true. Our beloved uncle "Vijay Bhana" aka Vjmama (mama: meaning uncle in Gujarati) had passed away. I cannot explain that feeling, perhaps shock best describes it. In that moment I woke Tejal up and both of us sprung out of bed trying to get in touch with other family members to get some other information with no luck as everyone had been scrambling to get funeral arrangements organized. Eventually, we received information that the funeral had been arranged for 1:30PM CAT( South African time). Being in Canada we could not physically attend the funeral and with the ongoing pandemic, we could not return to SA to pay our respects in person, which made it tough to say goodbye. Thankfully with technology, my sister connected us in real time and we watched the funeral procession and paid our condolences to loved ones, which in itself was tough.
The relationship Vjmama and I shared was not just one of uncle and nephew, it was so much more than that. We shared similar interests from football (aka soccer), technology and even music. He was the one who got me interested in computers and technology and which fueled my passion to pursue in a career in computers. Big thank you to my Vjmama. He was one who loved adventure's & adventure sports from diving in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to motor-cross riding in the desert to travelling to all parts of the world. One sport in particular he was really amazing at was squash, which was the last thing he did. I had at many times tried to play squash with him and my aunts but its tougher than it looks and I always had huge respect for them. Squash really does challenge your fitness and hamstrings like no other sport I have played before. Perhaps in the way he lived, I found myself having similar interests and mannerisms. He never said NO to anyone and was always willing to share his knowledge & expertise.
Our love for football and music was always celebrated and I was fortunate to attend the 2010 Fifa World Cup concert held in Orlando, Soweto (Johannesburg) with him. He called me whilst at work and said he had tickets for the concert and asked that I join him. I was in work clothes at the time and did not have on clothes for a winter outdoor concert. Ever resourceful, he made a plan like he always did and brought some warm clothing for me. That was one of the best experiences of my life which I had the privilege of sharing with him.
Another was when he had been working at a resort looking after the giant water slides in Buffelspoort (Rustenburg, Johannesburg). He invited me to spend time with him at the resort. I remember chilling in the caravan watching the Matrix, going to the pools and enjoying the resort which all round was great fun.
I also think of him fondly when I am playing Fifa. He always scolded me for taking out new computers from the boxes in his room to Play Fifa 99 or wearing his biking helmet with no visor. He always had something interesting in his room for me to rummage through and find. I always thought of his room as a treasure chest where I would find all sorts of awesome gadgets. As soon as I entered the house, his room would be the first one, I wandered off to.
Even when Tejal and myself needed any assistance, he never hesitated and always gave his time with much love and humility. He always said, a meal was his payment and would one day visit us in Canada. We both are sad that will not happen now.
Vjmama has left us way too soon as there was so much more life he had left in him.
The shock and trauma will take time to subside for all who have known this kind soul. Accepting that his physical presence is no more, will take time. I know that his time to depart this world came and he chose it, like he always did with many things in his life - without hesitation and with much enthusiasm. The memories and experiences we shared will be forever be cherished.
24th April will now be a double celebration of LIFE. My birthday & the life of my awesome, adventurous, humble and kind Vjmama.
Until we meet again, Love you Vjmama, I will miss you dearly 😢
Rest in Peace 🙏🏼 ❤️
A gentle reminder to all to take of your mental health and to speak about how you are feeling. When our loved ones depart our world physically, the grief and sadness can mentally challenge us. Let's help one another through this.