The Small Dash
by Jasti Victor
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The ground shook. It’s the usual aftershocks the residents of Christchurch are used to, for the past two months. Though they were in the Cemetery, an open ground, the after shocks sounded eerie, and Vivienne Franswah, who was standing beside Shefalika Ruth, involuntarily shook. It was a large gathering, as the husband of Shefalika; David McClure was very popular in the Church, in the neighborhood and in his office.
Vivienne, standing beside Shefalika, held her hand tightly, as she had a last look before the casket was closed and lowered for burial. Even in death, David’s face was serene and with that infectious smile, firmly etched on his face.
Dave, as he was popularly known had this wonderful habit of wanting to know more about anyone he met, in the office, church or the neighborhood. It can a new client in his office, a pastor or a visitor to his church, the corner policeman, the daily postman or the weekly garbage collector in his neighborhood. So it was no wonder that Shefalika was surprised at the large gathering at the funeral, by people whom she hardly knew.
Mary Grace McClure, the young twenty three year old daughter was very close to her dad. She was the one who was very badly devastated by his untimely death. A small built, petite quiet maiden girl and with that all night silent crying, looked pathetic with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. Shefalika had seen to it that her son, Kenneth McClure, stood close to his sister, till the end of the service.
Fifty year old David McClure, a successful Investment Consultant, made it a habit to be home immediately after office hours everyday, throughout his career so that he could spend the evening with his family. So very particular was he of this ritual, that even his important clients sought appointment, within office hours. No wonder he was known in his circle as a very devoted family person.
David had celebrated his fiftieth birthday on August 22, 2010, but it was the surprise birthday party, thought of by his daughter, Mary, which was remembered in the tightly knit circle of McClure’s family and friends.
Vivienne clearly remembered the morning of August 12, when Shefalika, in a hushed tone told her all about the plan. They have ten days, and as they wanted to keep the element of surprise, didn’t even want to confide with Cyril of Indian Hearth, their caterer friend. So it was Shefalika and Vivienne who stealthily made many a trip to Countdown, stuffing the two refrigerators Shefalika had, with all kinds of meat, vegetables and fruits.
Vivienne, a South Indian, emigrated fifteen years back to Christchurch and loved to cook. Her cooking, a mix Continental, South Indian and Chinese, were so tasty that there was a popular saying in her circle that “Without Vivienne, theirs’ no party.” So it was Vivienne, who dressed in her loose fitting top and her light blue jeans, was at the kitchen, supervising, cooking, her arms swaying, giving instructions which made her the most lively and lovable character.
As the birthday was on a Sunday, the entire Church Congregation were invited, right after the morning service. The party began with the serving of “Alu Pakoda” a tasty snack made up of thinly cut Onions, Spinach, Potato and deep fried. It was followed by a main course of Mutton Biryani, Ball curry and Chicken roast. It was this dish that David relished. Whole Chicken was roasted along with whole potatoes and carrots in an oven and served hot with tomato sauce. When ever David tastes the dish, he used to come running and tell her “I want to meet the person with the golden touch.”
The Memorial Service was held on October 8, 2010 in the Cathedral Square. It echoed to hymns of hope and praise amidst the bright sunshine. From the time the earthquake struck Christchurch, the resilient residents, saw to it that they continued their song and worship without the shrill sirens and the rumble of falling masonry disturbing them.
Pastor Gregory Kent sang without a hint of quiver. Friends and relatives looked back, turning the memory pages of David McClure, sharing with others of what they know about him. It was his sense of humor, his effervescent way of viewing things which others see as bleak and the loud boisterous greeting every morning that all remembered. To anyone who asked him, “How are you?” his apt reply, “Shaken but not stirred”, sends a guffaw of laughter, reverberating through the office corridors.
The police man, a close friend now, shared that “David McClure has this Kiwi form of heroism.”
Micheal, the local postman, said “Like the rock-hard old Clock Tower, where the clock was still struck at 4.35am, a constant reminder to every one in Christchurch of the Quake time, David McClure will be remembered as the one who stood, rock solid, to spread joy and happiness amidst gloom and dejection.”
As Vivienne, stood up to speak, there was not a sound around, so still was it that it looked like even the passing wind, had come to a stand still. Looking at the children and Shefalika, she said softly, “People, who die, leave behind a dash. This is a dash between the date of birth and death, which we have engraved on the epitaph. And that dash, tells all about the person. David McClure’s dash is not a straight line, but a spark. It’s a spark, which sets fire to the bush, the burning bush which still burns. Only few have that spark, and David has that. May God be with his children and Shefalika Ruth.”
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