Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Story of our Life and the Lessons we have Learned

Leading the Service
Speech given at the memorial service of Vineeth on May 6, 2011 at St. Mary's Church, Houston TX

          Dear friends and family,
          I want to repeat a story I have already told several times. Some of you might have heard it from me earlier. But I keep on telling this story because it has impressed me deeply, and I learned a great lesson from it. When I was accompanying my son’s body to India, I had to stay in a hotel for a day in Dubai. A few friends in Dubai visited me there. I shared my pain with them in a sentence—I lost my child. Immediately came a reply from someone – He is our child too! It took a few moments for me to realize what he meant by that statement. Once I understood the depth of that statement, it sank deep into my soul, and made a strong impression. By that statement he admitted that my pain was real, but he wanted to affirm that they were there to share the pain with me.

In times of loss and pain, one needs support. No one can keep on going without support from others. They came to the hotel room to let me know that I was not alone, and that they were there to share my pain. You all have been there for us to support us and to share our pain in times of need. It would have been much easier for you to stand away and leave us to suffer. But you were willing to come down to us in our valley of tears to console us and to shed tears with us.

Giving devotional address
Lissy and I knew at the very beginning that our life would be an adventure trip, but we had no idea what all adventures were there in store for us.

God gave us a child, and we received him with gratitude and joy. We watched him growing with wonder and excitement. He was the first among his classmates in his schools, and he was an icon for his friends. As parents we had our dreams of him. He also dreamed of a successful future for him.  But as he entered adolescence, two disabilities, which were dormant in the childhood, slowly began to show up. One was a disability of his eyesight. He began to develop severe astigmatism, and on top of it he had very bad keratoconus on both eyes. We tried a cornea transplant on one eye, but the result was not that satisfactory. The other disability was in his brain. He began to develop very severe episodes of depression. These two inherited disabilities made his adolescent life very painful. In spite of the disabilities and the pain, he managed to live his life as successfully as he could. He graduated from High school with honors, and graduated from college on time. The severity of pain made him contemplate ending this life. After leaving a note, in which he apologized for leaving a lot of grief behind, he took his own life.
John Kunnathu tells
the story of Vineeth

In the note he said that he had been contemplating about this for several years. He couldn’t picture himself as a disabled person and as an outcast from the society.  He tried to deny that he was disabled. He also sought our help to deny the truth about him. But simply by denying, he couldn’t get rid of the reality. Finally when he accepted the reality, he decided to give up. But it was not easy for him to make up his mind. The thought of how his parents and others close to him would find themselves in an ocean of grief pulled him back strongly each time he wanted to take his life. 

We were inching forward through the valley of the shadow of death. Our son’s disability, the pain he was suffering each day, and the fact that we had to hide this from everyone around us—all these together was a heavy burden to us as a family. Not a day passed without us crying over him. More than once did my wife suggest to me that we all need to end our lives as a family.

It seems that our son realized where we were heading as a family. He was also scared of himself. He was scared if his own behavior might go beyond his control. Finally he found the solution by taking his own life. Even after our son welcomed death as a solution, Lissy and I continued in the valley of the shadow of death. Without our son, life did not have the same meaning for us anymore. 

What kept us alive was the support we received from you all, the ones who care for us, the ones who were willing to share our pain. You were willing to forgive our mistakes that came out of our arrogance and ignorance. When you stretched your arms to wipe out our tears, we recognized them to be the arms of God. When you shed tears with us, we knew that those were the tears of God. In you we saw a God who cries with us, a God who suffers in us and through us.

Let me share with you some of the lessons we learned from this experience.

Life is an adventure trip, and we are here to learn through our experiences which consist of pain and pleasures. But God does not make us suffer. God suffers with us and in us. Let us not complain about our sufferings, but let us be thankful for every experience of suffering, for they are opportunities to grow and be stronger.

We don’t know the purpose of our existence, but we know the reason for our continuing to exist in spite of our sufferings. We continue to exist because of the people who care for us. Let us always be supportive to each other. We need to care for each other, and we also need to let them know that we care for them.

Death is scary if we see us as individual beings with our own life in us. Although we appear to have our own life, actually we don’t. God alone has life in himself. We are merely an expression of God’s life. According to our tradition, Adam received his life from God’s breath. Adam did not have life in himself. He was living God’s life. When the breath went back to God, and the earth went back to the earth, he died. Once we realize that we, the mortal beings, are the expressions of the immortal God, we don’t need to be sacred of death.

Thank you again for being with us today. May God bless you all! 

See a few pictures of the event here.


  1. dear uncle

    I could feel the emotions coming deep from the heart. Though I have known these from Leena and the last phone call you made, this reading makes it more revealing about the pain you are going through. Though in a different way..I had also realized that one cannot survive without the help of support from loved ones. In testing times, we realize how important it is.
    May God bless Vineeth's soul and guide your journey through the valley.

    Love and regards


  2. 3 long years have passed without Vineeth among us. But he lives on in the hearts of people who loved him, I beleive he is in a better place. The good Lord gives us strength to meet our challenges in this world. Keeping him and you in our prayers.