My father’s first grandchild was born today.
Daddy loved children not in the way most people do, but in the way most adults don’t. He looked up to them; saying there was more to learn from children’s innocence, curiosity, and simplicity than from any other segment of the human population. He kneeled down to speak to them, and asked as many questions as they asked him.
He was right.
When my little nephew was born, Arya Kirit Seth, it put to test all my thoughts about life, death, birth, and belief.
Even before Arya was born people would say, “Your father’s soul will come back in this child.”
It was a strange thing to think, and even though well-intentioned, I always felt a little uneasy at this expectation. Not just for my own sake, because nobody could replace my daddy, but also for the sake of this child to-be, whose destiny and dreams I did not want smothered by another person’s legacy (albeit a grandfather he would have adored).
Even though my spiritual beliefs allow for rebirth, I was hesitant to think this might be true.
As soon as Arya was born I could feel people itching to ask, “Do you think it’s him? Has he come back?”
It fascinated me, because I was just as uncomfortable discussing this as the rest. But I publish a magazine that braves to talk about things we find difficult, and so I’ve dared to share what I’m most afraid of saying.
When Arya first came into the world, minutes out of his mother’s womb, we were stunned to silence. We felt a powerful presence—and I could not distinguish whether it was the presence of a new life or that of an old, familiar soul. We all felt Daddy in that moment, and I sincerely don’t know if it’s because he was there with us in spirit, or because he was in Arya.
Arya looked around the room with wide open eyes, more alert than the rest of us, cooing at his mother. When they lay him down on a cot, I went over to him and he looked at me for the first time—really looked at me. I know that in the first few days a baby can’t focus, but Arya disproved everything I had learned from a textbook. He stared back at me, straight into me, and recognized me—as if saying, “I know you. Don’t you know me?”
Nobody can mistake recognition; it’s that locking of the eyes, even if you’ve seen a person only for a second and you remember you know them from somewhere. There was something in Arya I recognized.
Over the course of a few days I started looking at Arya completely differently. He had his own personality: gentle, a little cheeky, and so serene in his demeanor. Yes, they were characteristics similar to my father, but Arya was his own little man. I thought about his future, what he’d one day grow up to be, and how he’d laugh, talk, and walk.
Arya made me think about myself—how people say I’m quiet like my father, how I’m so different from my sister, how my features are just like my cousin’s. I learned from him, from this battle I had with myself every time I looked at him, that it made no difference at all.
Because no matter what we say or don’t say, believe or don’t believe—people are born, and people die, and whatever souls are made of, we’ve all got the same stuff within us.
Perhaps what I recognized in Arya’s eyes was my father’s powerful look; and perhaps what he recognized in me was a familiar sense of love. But what we truly recognized in each other, was life—the eternal, ever-changing magic of the universe that makes us all connected—as if we were saying, “I do know you. I came from the same place you did. And one day you’ll go back to where I just came from.”
Because the truth is we don’t know anything for sure. And whether we’re a newborn grandson, a deceased grandfather, or a daughter who’s also an aunt, we all carry a little part of each other everywhere.
As I sit here now and watch him sleep, I find his presence soothing me. Arya has brought back with him some of the peace we lost when Daddy left. So calm, so gentle, so comforting—I often get the feeling we need him more than he needs us.
What has been most difficult for me to say, and perhaps most significant of all, is that I envy Arya just a teeny tiny bit. For I have the slight suspicion he has met my father a little more recently than I have.