Thank you, I love you, and God bless.
To say the last week has been devastating would be an understatement. Krishan Syal, my father in law, passed away on January 25 at 90 years of age.
There are many things I could say about Kris, all of them good. He has had an influence on my perspective toward so many things in life. He was a man that always made me feel welcome. He was a father that always made me feel accepted. He was a friend that always wanted to hear what I had to say. I will miss this man more than I can describe, but I will have all of what he passed on to me in his kindness, his spirit, and his incomparable daughter. I will keep him close to me always.
He came to Canada in 1963 after leaving India and spending some time in the UK. I'm not clear on why he decided to leave his home country, but I am sure that it would have taken a great deal of courage to do so, something that was a hallmark of his personality. When I first met him, Kris had been working for the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, (INAC.) We had many curious conversations about what he did in his career with INAC. He had obtained a Master's Degree in Social Work and was managing several initiatives designed to assist social development in First Nations communities. Little did I know that two years later I would be living and teaching at a First Nations community in Northern Alberta near one of his earlier career posts at High Level. Bina (Kris's daughter, my girlfriend at the time, and future wife,) and I had moved up north together to begin our teaching careers. Twenty years after the fact it became evident that Kris had made a very large impact on the people he worked with in Northern Alberta. Hearing Bina's last name it was inevitable that the question, "are you related to Kris Syal?" followed, and then we would hear stories of things he had done for them and how much he was respected. I began to realize the magnitude of his impact and as a result, also began to question my purpose as a teacher and a professional.
For many years following, we had the best conversations about social issues, politics, culture, diversity, teaching... he is the best conversationalist I have ever known. Every time I saw him I left feeling better than when I arrived. He was one of those people who displayed infectious positivity and knew how to make others feel appreciated and welcome. Just being with him felt like a celebration. He valued those around him and I can't think of an occasion where he spoke negatively about anyone in front of me. If it were up to him I would never know about the challenges he experienced as a South Asian man in Western Canada. I have heard from Bina about some of the things he endured, and overcame, but he only ever wanted to know about how I was doing. Every single time I saw him he would routinely ask me how I was doing, how my family was doing, and if I needed anything. I mostly answered that everything and everyone was fine, even when they weren't. I didn't want to tell him if that were the case, I really just wanted to soak up his spirit and positivity and move on to the conversation that always followed during "happy hour" as he always referred to it.
When we visited together he would boisterously greet me with, "Seany the Great!" There are so many things I will miss about this man, but that is one of the hardest because when he said that to me I knew that he meant it and that he was honestly glad to see me. He did this for everyone. He was the most sincere person I have ever known. He had a similar farewell tradition. Every time we had to go following a visit or a weekend staying with him he would say to me, Bina and the kids, "thank you, I love you all, and God bless."
Kris, I will miss you in so many ways. You inspired me to be a better, more accepting and understanding person, husband, father, friend and colleague. I will remain eternally inspired by your example. I will cherish every moment I have to live my life in your spirit, and I will strive to be as much like you as I can.
I am eternally grateful to have met you, and I thank you for the gifts you have given me.