Never-ending Friendship

Bishop Braganza spent sixty years of his life in the service of Jesus.  He was one of the many friends I have made since coming to St. Xavier’s College four years ago.  I enjoyed sitting on the patio at night and listen to his stories.  He would tell me other stories and we would laugh at his memories of younger days, of times with students asking him for special permission to miss a class.  Of the changes that he was noticing in the world.  Inevitably he would return to the Peacock and the other animals of Gujarat.  He loved looking at the pictures I took of Monkeys, camels, parrots, and elephants.  In all the time I’ve been here I can honestly say, I’ve never seen a single Peacock.  I can say I’ve heard them, but never seen one.  You know, Carole, he would say, the Peacock was here today – he was after the lettuce.  I know he likes it, but so do I.  The last time I was here I stayed in his room, he vacated it so that I would be comfortable.  I would joke that I was his sister.  I really enjoyed the time I spent with him and the picture of this world I would never had known.

When we arrived I asked how he was and was saddened to hear he had passed away just seven days prior to our arrival at the age of 90.  Today I will attend his memorial service in celebration of his life. 

The story with the Peacock started many years back.  You see, the Bishop grew up in a time when there were many animals and their relationship to the earth had not yet been discovered.  He was part of the generation that had to fight with the animals for the vegetables and other food in the area.  He did not like the Peacocks and other birds benefiting from his vegetable garden.  The other Jesuits will tell you that they often had found the Bishop, out early with his pellet gun.  He would shoot at the Peacock to keep him away from the lettuce that he had planted for the residence.

On his part, the Peacock would wait until the Bishop was outside to make an appearance, first landing in the front of the residence and then slowly walking to the back and the gardens.  If he found the Bishop asleep he would make a large racket to wake him up.  You are probably thinking it would have been wiser for the Peacock to remain silent and sneak to the lettuce to feast.  But that would have spoiled the game.

The Peacock had never once been harmed at the hand of the Bishop, and the Bishop had never been pecked by the Peacock.  They were enemies much in the same way that ‘Tom and Jerry’ were enemies.  It was actually out of this mutual respect that the Peacock and the Bishop  enjoyed each others company.  The taunting and teasing was just part of the game they would play with each other.

The story from the Jesuits goes that on the day the Bishop returned to his place in heaven he had a meeting with the Peacock in the morning, their normal routine, the Peacock strutting and yelling, the Bishop taunting him with his pellet gun.  After their morning exercise, the Bishop had a nice breakfast, said his prayers and went to take a rest.  When he didn’t return for the noon meal Ignas, one of the kitchen staff, went to his room to wake him.  He was sleeping peacefully so he left him alone.  When he didn’t return for the four o’clock tea, Ignas went again to wake the Bishop.  He had not moved. A peaceful look was upon his face, but Ignas was worried so he asked Father to check him out.  Ignas’ worries were justified.  The Bishop had passed away, peacefully, in his sleep.

The Peacock had not returned the next morning, or the next, or the one after that…in fact, the Peacock has been quite absent from the garden.  The same garden that the Bishop would defend.  The lettuce is growing quite well now, its defender and its main thief gone from view.  Fr. Lancelot mentioned that the Peacock only likes the small sprouts.  The Bishop would fight for these plants to grow so they would have enough for their table.  But he also realized that a portion needed to be left for the birds – they needed to share.  After the Bishop passed away they found a small area of garden the Bishop had hidden from them – it was full of fresh, large, lettuce plants.  All this time they did not even realize that the Bishop had, in fact, created a special area for his friend.  They will have a large abundance of lettuce this season, the Peacock has not feasted on it since the Bishop passed.Today we celebrate his life.  We look at his 60 years of service, his time as the head of St. Xaviers, his retirement.  A pellet gun sits in the corner of his room.  His mail remains unopened.  His mail box contains the few effects he left behind.

Today the Peacock returned.  I saw him looking in the windows of the buildings that he must have seen the Bishop many times.  He walked from window to window looking in.  He walked right past the lettuce, not caring about its abundance.  He was looking for his friend, his adversary, his companion.

I believe he knows the Bishop is not here, but he is hopeful that his spirit will remain.  That the Jesuits and the students he taught will remember him.  Whenever I see a Peacock from this day forward, I will remember the Bishop and the friendship they shared.

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