Introduction to ‘A Man with Shining Eyes’

My father, Vincent Sebastian, suffered a devastating second stroke in May 2001. He was 73, I was 39. He died on 4 August 2011 and today is the tenth anniversary of his passing.

In the wake of my grief, some poems started to come to me, meaning, I saw the words in my head and simply wrote them down. (I say ‘simply’ but it was not necessarily a simple matter to catch them when they appeared!) Most I later worked on, but some are in their original form. There were others that I worked at deliberately. My poetic style does not fall into the standard definition of poetry though, as any lover of poetry will immediately see.

About half of the poems that I will be sending out over the next weeks were written between 2012 and 2014. The other half were filed away in folders called ‘Almost There’, ‘Has Content, Some Shape’, ‘Very Rough’, ‘Titles with Notes’, Look Through These for Possible Poems’ and ‘Not Sure’. Some of those, hopefully, will come to life and find their way here over the next months.

I intended to publish the poems as a collection, believing that I would be able to capture in writing all the main stories, the innumerable gifts from what I called ‘the world wide web of care’ — family, friends, neighbours, medical professionals, religious communities, strangers, who journeyed with my father, with me, and with all members of my family. In that respect, I have failed miserably. I have not been able to write what I thought would be central poems. There are many things that I have not, and may never be able to find words for.

I remain humbled by what everyone gave. I might not know what you did or went through, I might have forgotten — but that doesn’t take anything away from what you felt for my father, for me, and for my family. You are in these poems, in between the lines, in the blank spaces.

I started a ‘Gratitude Book’ in my notes while my father was alive. I would write a person’s name, and try and capture the essence of what they gave. I couldn’t keep up with it. For every poem where I have mentioned someone’s name, or where I have written about a particular person, there are dozens more that are unwritten.

The poems are from my point of view, my memory. As such, you who are close to me, who find yourselves in the words, please know that all the limitations, errors even, are mine. The grief you will see is resolved. Any hurt, worry, confusion, anger you might read, is over.

And, if you have come to these poems without knowing me, my father, or my family, I’m so glad you’re here.

The poems are limited by my ability with words. And further limited by my inability to capture some of the most profound and most challenging moments and situations. The poems are also not in any particular order because the collection isn’t complete (and might never be), so you will find that the poems move between different aspects of the journey.

My father travelled from Kuala Lumpur to be with his younger sister in Sakthikulangara who wasn’t well. Three weeks later, in May 2001, his flight home was delayed, and he was put up overnight in a hotel. He suffered a stroke in his hotel room in Thiruvananthapuram on the morning he was to travel back. He was saved initially by the actions of his roommate and hotel staff who we never knew, the travel agent who contacted our family there and together rushed him to one of the best hospitals into the hands of the doctors and nursing staff.

He spent several weeks in two hospitals in Kerala, followed by a couple of weeks in a hospital in Singapore, and more weeks in a Malaysian hospital before returning to his home in Petaling Jaya in September 2001.

This was the start of the journey of ten years. I hope that some of the poems speak to you as we continue to care and be cared for, through the most difficult and joyous times in our lives.

A Man with Shining Eyes
Poems on stroke, caregiving, death, and other adventures

In memory of Vincent Sebastian
17 November 1928–4 August 2011
For making what should have been dark, brilliant.



It seems like a lifetime ago. Someone who’d just met me said, “Your dharma is to be a writer.” I laughed it off. Now here I am, not wanting to do much else.

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Marianne Vincent

Marianne Vincent

It seems like a lifetime ago. Someone who’d just met me said, “Your dharma is to be a writer.” I laughed it off. Now here I am, not wanting to do much else.