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Jacintha coming home for final rest

- Catholic burial in Mangalore according to nurse’s wishes
Jacintha Saldanha’s daughter Lisha and husband Benedict Barboza outside Westminster Cathedral in London after a mass for the nurse. (AFP and Reuters)

London, Dec. 15: Born in India, lived in England, laid to rest back home in India.

Two tragedies do not make a trend, nevertheless it is worth pointing out that 2012 began with the parents of 23-year-old Anuj Bidve flying to England to take back the body of their only son, murdered in a random killing in Salford, for a funeral back home in Pune.

Admittedly in different circumstances, the body of Jacintha Saldanha, 46, caring nurse and loving mother of two, is going back home to Mangalore for a Catholic burial in the village of Shirva near Udupi on Monday.

In one of three notes she left before taking her own life a week ago, she provided detailed instructions on where she wished to be laid to rest.

Her husband, Benedict Barboza, 49, son Junal, 16, and daughter, Lisha, 14, who attended mass today in London at Westminster Cathedral, will, one assumes, continue to live in England at the home they have made in Bristol.

In the future, if they wish to lay flowers on Jacintha’s grave, they will have to make the long journey each time to Mangalore. People from India have migrated to the farthest corners of the world but Jacintha’s desire to be brought back to Mangalore perhaps says a lot about the Indian concept of home.

Jacintha’s suicide has become a national tragedy — it has come up in the House of Commons and during Question Time on BBC TV.

During the service, Father Alexander Master explained: “The mass is offered for the repose of the soul of Jacintha Saldanha and also for the family, some of whom we welcome here today. We pray for them and, in particular, for her.”

After the service, Jacintha’s husband and children came out of the red brick cathedral and read out what can only be described as heart-rending messages.

A tearful Barboza said: “My wife, you were the light in my darkness, who always showed me the way forward. From the day we met, you always stood by me in times of hardship and happiness. I feel a part of me has been ripped out.”

He added: “Without your beautiful smile and sparkling personality, the house is an empty place to live. Nineteen years of togetherness with a strong bond of affection and understanding will be cherished forever in my life. Your loss is a very painful one and nobody can take that place in my life ever again. I love you and miss you forever.”

Junal followed: “Our mother, kind hearted, generous and a well respected woman in both of our lives. You were the core of the family who kept it together. In times of difficulty you showed us the way forward to happiness and success. Your priority for us was a good education and a bright future. You taught us right from wrong which we appreciate. You worked tirelessly to give us everything that we have today. When we achieved good grades and merit, your pat on our backs encouraged us more.”

It is hard to imagine the pain experienced these last few days by Lisha, who said: “We will miss your laughter, the loving memories and the good times we had together. The house is an empty dwelling without your presence. We are shattered and there’s an unfillable void in our lives.”

She ended: “We love you, Mum, sleep in peace and watch over us until we meet again in heaven. We will always love you and keep you close to our heart.”

The family were comforted by the Labour MP, Keith Vaz, who has been subjected to vile attacks from some right-wing quarters — they see him as a busybody muscling in for personal publicity. He helped Anuj Bidve’s family as well.

But had it not been for Vaz, the management of the hospital where Jacintha worked, King Edward VII, would not have been held up to scrutiny. It is becoming clear that, at the very least, Jacintha’s senior colleagues, whom she apparently criticised in one of her notes, have questions to answer.

In a letter to Vaz, which was released by the hospital last evening, chief executive John Lofthouse explained the protocol in place for dealing with calls to “high-profile” patients.

The letter read: “Part of our procedure is to take the name and number of the individual and call them back. This is in order to verify that the call is genuine. We also empower our staff to use their judgement. On this particular occasion, Jacintha believed that the call was genuine, and she felt it appropriate to put the call through. We stand by her judgement.”

The hospital has insisted that Jacintha was not facing disciplinary proceedings “because she had been the victim of a cruel trick”.

The letter also said she had been offered time off but she said she would prefer to continue working. “Neither ourselves, her friends or family noticed anything to give cause for concern,” wrote Lofthouse.

Barboza today thanked the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister David Cameron for their condolences.

He said the family “could not have foreseen the unprecedented tragedy that has unfolded in our lives. The events of the last week have shattered our lives. We barely have the strength to withstand the grief and sorrow.”