Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Murder of Innocents, Christmas, Childhood of Jesus
Volume 7 No. 453 December 25, 2017

IV. General Weekly Features

Sona Skaria Varghese (Oct 12, 1981 - Dec 11, 2017)

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Chief Editor, Malankara World

The sorrows of death surrounded me,
the sorrows of hell encompassed me;
and in my affliction I called upon the Lord,
and He heard my voice from His holy temple.

I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength:
the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.
- Psalm 18: 57, 23

Sona Skaria Varghese, 1981-2019
Sona Skaria Varghese, 1981-2019

Sona Skaria Varghese, a very dear friend of us and a big supporter of Malankara World, was called to her heavenly home on Monday December 11, 2017. She died at her home after the morning prayers. Although many of her dreams like attending the graduation, wedding etc. of her children and looking after her grand children were not realized, she did spent the last day of her life sleeping with her three children in one bed, embracing them like a hen keeps her brood under her wings. She was buried, as per wish, in a newly opened cemetery, only a few miles from her home - Ridge View West Memorial Park, Frisco, Texas - so that her husband, children and grand children will be able to visit her resting place often.

Sona was born as the eldest daughter of Dr. N. Skaria and Mrs. Saramma Skaria in Vakathanam, Kottayam. Her home is very near my grandmother's ancestral home of Onatt in Vakathanam. She has a younger brother, who resides in Toronto, Canada.

Sona had captured the heart of everyone in Vakathanam. She was first in her class all the way to SSLC. She was an all rounder, excelling in sports, dance and other extracurricular activities. For her fellow students at MGM School, Vakathanam, she was the heroine to emulate. She also told her brother of the need to have high goals and working hard to fulfill his dreams.

After high school, Sona joined Assumption College, Changanassery, Kottayam (a Catholic Girls college near S.B. College, Changanassery.) Her dream was to become a doctor. After graduating from Assumption college, she started preparing for the Medical College Entrance test. While the Entrance test was still few months away, she got admission to the premier Indian Medical Institution, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, in New Delhi for nursing. For someone born in a sleepy village like Vakathanam (kind of like Nazareth where Jesus spent his childhood), getting admission to AIIMS was a dream come true. Although Sona was confident that she will get admission eventually to Medical School, her father has persuaded her to join AIIMS rather than taking a chance at getting into Medical School in future. As an obedient daughter, Sona agreed and joined AIIMS. She graduated from AIIMS with Honors in B Sc. Nursing. After graduation, she joined AIIMS as an RN in Neuro Sciences Dept. In AIIMS also, Sona excelled in studies as well in extracurricular activities.

Sona got married to Jerry Varghese Kizhakkemuri, Thottackad, Kottayam on Dec 26, 2005. Jerry was in Mangalore at that time doing his higher studies in Physical Therapy. Jerry's home in Thottackadu was only a stone throw away from the clinic of Sona's dad and only a couple of miles from Vakathanam. It was a fairy tale marriage for all the residents of Vakathanam and Thottackadu.

Sona and Jerry immigrated to USA in 2006. They initially came to Staten Island, New York; but relocated to Cleveland Ohio when Sona got a job with Cleveland Clinic, ranked #1 Hospital in Ohio and #2 Hospital (overall) in the USA with a cardiology department that is ranked as #1 34 years in a row! Again, it was a dream come true for Jerry and Sona. Jerry started working towards his program in Doctor of Physical Therapy, while working in Cleveland Clinic. Jerry and Sona has three children - Jiya (9), Riya (7) and Milan (4). Jerry and family relocated to Dallas area in 2014.

After relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, Jerry and Sona became members of our church. Sona had this magnetic personality to attract people to her. What I remember best about her is her smile and her eyes. She is also very friendly and genuine. I cannot forget her eyes and smile. While Jerry is a laid back, quiet sort of person in his own way (I call him the 'perfect gentleman'), Sona is lively, chirpy and full of life. Her call of 'uncle-eeey' still resonate in my ears.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears,
the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart. The place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows.
And the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows.
- Audrey Hepburn

Sona and Jerry reminded me of the Holy Family - St. Joseph (the man of few words) and St. Mary (who treasured everything in her heart, and someone willing to take chances trusting God perfectly.)

We used to go for Christmas Caroling. Jerry is very good in music and he was the music director in our church. Many of us still remember Sona, encouraging the team to do better and practice more when we visit her home.

Sona knew the secret for success. Her mantra was aim high, have goals, work relentlessly to achieve them. Try to be the best in whatever you do. Do not grab the first opportunity that comes your way, but try for the best that can be achieved. Her life is a testimonial to following those guidelines. She tried to instill in others the same secret to success.

Sona also knew that without God, nothing can be accomplished in life. She knew that we are here to do His will, not ours and we need to work with the 'chips' God dealt us and do the best we can with them. Her faith in Jesus Christ was a fort that protected her from life's storms. She taught her children the importance of family prayer and the need to attend church regularly. She also knew how to thank God for what was given to her rather than getting mad at what was not given. It is a truly rare person who can be satisfied with what he/she has rather than being resentful for what one doesn't have.

A weeping Dr. Skaria shared at Sona's funeral what Sona told him a short time before her death. She told him, "papa, thank you for finding the best husband in the world for me. He is perfect in every way. Thank you papa, I am so happy." That is the secret to a happy family life. Rather than looking for the bad things in your mate, look for the best and thank God for it. Many people who assembled in Sehion Marthoma Church in Plano, Texas recalled the sight of teary eyed Jerry kneeling in the hospital room at the foot of Sona's bed, massaging her to relieve her severe pain from Cancer in the last days. For a man with few words, that said volumes about the love between Jerry and Sona.

Sona loved visiting places. She wanted to enjoy life when she can. She genuinely cared for people. Rev. Thomas Kurien, vicar of Oklahoma Marthoma church, shared with the audience at Sona's funeral, his first meeting with Sona. An young boy, perhaps 10 years old, was down with cancer in his church. The doctors didn't have much hope for his recovery. Sona went to Oklahoma with church members the 200 plus miles to his church for a meeting and saw the boy. When Fr. Kurien entered the church, he saw an young lady holding the hands of the boy, praying with him and telling him, "Mon-eey, you will be OK. The God will heal you. Trust God." Fr. Kurien asked a member of his church who this beautiful lady was and the person said, "This is Sona from Plano." Fr. Kurien had heard about Sona, wanted to meet her, and could not believe it! Here is Sona, who has no hope for recovering from cancer herself, as the doctors said there is not anything they can do for her, driving long distance to visit and pray for a person she didn't know before. The boy, by the way, was healed as Sona predicted, but she didn't. That is unconditional love (agape) and service. That was Sona, we all remember.

In the end God took care of Sona. The Sehion Marthoma church in Plano, Texas is a huge church by US standards and they helped Sona and family through her illness. They visited her in hospital and home, a prayer group, led by Mr. Philip Mathew, made frequent visit to Sona's home to pray for her. I met several of its members at the gathering at Jerry's home after the funeral. They are, as Jesus said, the salt of the earth. Many of Sona's classmates from AIIMS currently residing in various parts of USA, took care of Sona, taking turns visiting her house, bathing her and performing other needs till her death. Rincy Soney and Dimple Chelagiri, her seniors from AIIMS, shared their memories during Sona's Memorial Service.

Sona's Funeral

The memorial service and the funeral was attended by a huge crowd. Clergies from Marthoma Church, a bishop from Anglican church of India (a family friend who came from Philadelphia), and priests from both Jacobite Church and Orthodox Church from Dallas and nearby areas were present. Although Sona lived only 36 years in this world before she was called back to her eternal home, she had utilized that time well. Her faith was solid. She had raised her children teaching them about Christian faith and the need for prayer. She was loved by everyone who knew her. We pray for a good Christian ending; Sona certainly had that. But Christmas will not be the same for her husband and three children in coming years.

One of the heart-breaking scene at the burial service was when Milan, Sona's 4-year old son, who cannot yet comprehend what death is, was dropping rose petals into the coffin at the cemetery while his two elder sisters, Jiya and Riya, were weeping with his father.

Sona's funeral

Sona's funeral

Sona's funeral

Sona's funeral

We pray to God to strengthen Jerry, Jiya, Riya and Milan and Sona's and Jerry's parents and their extended family to face this tragedy. Malankara World expresses our condolences to Jerry and family.

Finally, I like to conclude this, by quoting a poem - a wife bidding farewell to her husband. My daughter Seena and my wife Shila asked me to recite this at Sona's Memorial Service.

Jerry, this is for you from Sona:

When Tomorrow Starts Without Me
by David M Romano

When tomorrow starts without me
And I'm not here to see
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me

I wish you wouldn't cry
The Way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We did not get to say

I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
Each time that you think of me
I know you will miss me too

When tomorrow starts with out me
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand

The angel said my place was ready
In heaven far above
And That I would have to leave behind
All those I Dearly Love

But When I walked through Heaven's Gates
I felt so much at home
When GOD looked down and smiled at me
From his golden throne

He said This Is Eternity
And All I promised you
Today for life on earth is done
But Here it starts a new

I promise no tomorrow
For today will always last
And Since each day's the exact same way
There is no longing for the past

So When Tomorrow starts without me
Do not think we're apart
For every time you think of me
Remember I'm right here in your heart.

Goodbye Sona. We will never forget you.

[Photos by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World]


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