LADNER â€” A contagious smile and steadfast devotion, that is how Narinder Kaur Kalsi, 67, will be remembered .
The Riverside Funeral Home in Ladner was awash with family, friends and community members Sunday as they paid their respects to a woman who could not be summed up by a single word.
"A very good human being, caring, loving, a servant of the temple, a servant of the society and a smiley face. Even though she may have had problems, which I think most likely she was dealing with a lot of problems, she always smiled," said Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji as he left the afternoon funeral service.
"The smile was contagious it was catchy and made us all smile and forget about all minor things in our lives," he added.
Narinder Kalsi died Sunday, July 20 after she was taken off life-support following a domestic dispute on July 13 at her home on the 19400-block of 32nd Avenue in Surrey that left her in critical condition.
Baldev Singh Kalsi, her husband and former president of the Gurdwara Sahib Brookside temple in Surrey, was arrested and originally charged with aggravated assault. That charge was then upgraded to second-degree murder. He was removed from his position at the temple in the days following his arrest. He is scheduled to appear in Surrey Provincial Court on August 6.
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding Narinder Kalsi’s death, her devotion and demeanor are remembered fondly.
"I was amazed, at her age, she would be at the temple almost all day especially on weekends from early morning. She and her husband used to come early mornings and leave after the congregation had left to clean up and make it tidy. A very giving woman. Very, very smiling, very kind, very gentle, very humble, very motherly," said Bhurji.
According to City of Surrey Councillor Barinder Rasode, that is exactly how Kalsi’s family wants her to be remembered.
"The one thing that stood out for me was that when they described Narinder Kaur Kalsi they said that she took everybody’s problems on as her own and was such a kind soul," she said.
"They really want her to be remembered as a giving, kind person who volunteered not only for the congregation but made a difference in individual people’s lives; her gentleness and kindness was thought of today," added Rasode.
The loss of Narinder Kalsi highlights the issue of domestic violence and violence against women.
From 2010 to 2011 the rates of "intimate partner homicides against women" in Canada rose 19 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. While this is less than the previous decade, domestic abuse is still prevalent in all communities.
For Charan Gill, CEO of Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society and a friend of the Kalsi family, today was not a celebration of Narinder’s life.
"People are upset, people are very upset, we are sad. It is a bad name for the community, we want leaders to play a good role model, not like this, they have to control their anger, they have to do something. Especially in the Sikh temple, they go every day, they talk about peace, harmony, but this is just an outburst of something unusual," he said.
Gill said that the South-Asian community has been working hard to move ahead and change the problem of domestic violence but incidents like this slow the progress and make it more difficult to protect women.
"I think the tragic part is that the accused is somebody who was in a relationship where there should have been protection, love and honour, and until we hear of what actually happened the fact that the family has to grapple with the thought that she was murdered at the hands of a loved one is something I think that is especially hard for everybody," said Rasode.
Narinder Kalsi will be remembered for her smile along with many other qualities, and Dr. Pargat Bhurji hopes that her memory will also help save others from domestic violence.
"The physical body is made up of five elements that have [been] lost, of earth, water, fire, air, sky, but the spirit, the soul is alive. I would say that we salute the soul and we should seek guidance so that no other women like Mrs. Kalsi has to go through this traumatic event," said Bhurji.