My daughter Moy Moy died suddenly and unexpectedly in July 2018. My first Commonweal column—written in 1999 when she was ten years old—was about her. Our pediatrician had told us then that Moy probably only had months left to live. My column was about our anguish and grief; about what we had learned from her brief life and how much we still didn’t understand.
Longtime Commonweal readers may remember that our pediatrician got it wrong. Moy Moy didn’t die. She defied the odds and went on to astonish us, triumphing over severe pneumonias, chronic seizures, and continued regression. Though she had once been mobile, independent, verbal (and very funny), starting at the age of five, she gradually lost all her skills. By the time she was twelve, she had stopped talking completely and used a wheelchair to get around. When she was sixteen, we had a tube implanted in her stomach because she could no longer swallow.
It didn’t seem to matter. In 1994, I started a school for her here in India. It grew and grew—from two children to three hundred today. Thousands of families from all over the country have benefited from our services in assessment, diagnostics, training, awareness, and advocacy.
Without speaking a word or lifting a finger, Moy Moy changed the world. She drew people to her in ways we couldn’t understand or explain—things happened around her and because of her that one could only call miraculous. Checks arrived just as we had given up hope; exactly the right person showed up with the skills we needed at the very moment we needed them; doors seemed to open and caverns to close as we approached. There was no way to explain any of it.
When she died, I turned instinctively to the church. I had stopped going to Mass in 2009 (pedophilia, the place of women, the anti-gay policies, the lust for power, the corporate values) but with Moy’s death, instinct and history took over. I was not myself. Somehow, I believed that the enormity of our loss would be communicated to the priest and that her funeral and burial service would be a source of strength and comfort.
Four hundred people crowded into that church. Perhaps twenty of them were Christians. The rest were Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Parsee, and and Buddhist. Almost all of them spoke only Hindi. The priest, though Indian and fluent, chose to speak only in English. And his opening words were: “Many of you have probably never attended a Catholic Mass. Please do not come up for Communion. It is only for Catholics.”
Now, this is standard protocol in India, where non-Catholics often attend services out of respect, curiosity, or social obligation—like a funeral for a friend. And since prasad (a sweetmeat) is given to anyone who visits a Hindu temple or Sikh gurdwara, people naturally feel that Communion is the same: meant for everyone.