The loss in my life has changed me. How could it not? Even in April of 2021, I was a woman leading a normal life – parenting, working, spending time with my partner, talking to my parents, counting days to see them. India was blowing up but ma and baba never stepped out of the house. They were staying safe, right? Wrong! Despite all their precautions, despite one vaccine, Covid killed both of them. All at once, life threw me a curveball and I was left devastated. Death is an absolute truth and I have reached an age where death of parents was imminent but the cruelty of the universe in causing the death of both my parents left me shaken to the core. As I rebuild myself and learn to live again with the gaping void in my life, I am discovering new lessons about grief, about the whole process of mourning. I was somewhat aware of the different stages of grief journey and I was mindful when I passed through them. I am going towards acceptance as I write this. The journey, however, is not at all linear. I take a step forward one day only to take 2 steps back the next. But I am on the path and that is good.
As I see life go on around me, I often feel I am sitting on the sidelines alone with my grief. The world is moving on in its orbit and I am sitting at the periphery watching it go by. I am unable to join in just yet. I get up tentatively and sit back down again. The zest for life is absent and the grieving process is so lonely. No one can possibly understand except perhaps if I had a sibling.
I tell myself I am one of many since the beginning of time to experience such trauma and like many others I will come out of it. Not unscathed and yes, changed but I will get up from the sidelines and join in. But right now, nothing and no one has stopped for my grief except myself. And such is life.
The last in person image I have of my mother is when Ryan and I were getting in the car in August of 2019 to head to the airport. She was standing at the door, tears in her eyes, waving goodbye. We waved till we could not see each other anymore. I told her I will be back in May of 2020 to celebrate my 50th birthday with them. So it was just a matter of few months till we see each other again.
My last interaction with baba was an awkward hug at the Kolkata airport when I repeatedly told him to take care of his health. And to him too, I said, “See you in a few months.”
They wanted to plan a big party for my 50th and I said a hard no. Although in my mind I knew if they were determined to throw a party they will, my ‘no’ would have no value.
Covid attacked the world. We did not see each other for my 50th birthday but we lived in hope. 2021 brought so much promise. And then it took them away. There are a few unfinished business that were not taken care of though.
I requested that they buy me a couple of Kashmiri shawls for my birthday. Baba loved to buy clothes for me, their son-in-law and their grandkids. Ma did too but she felt my father’s tastes were superior to hers so she allowed him to make the selection. Baba went to Kashmir Emporium in Dakkhinapan to buy the shawls. I got to see them via video call. They are beautiful. They were hoping to give them to me for my birthday when I went home. The shawls are now sitting in the closet waiting for me. The ones who bought the gifts with so much love aren’t around to hand them to me. But their love persists.
Last Christmas I wanted a gift of a family portrait. Despite Ryan’s reluctance, we all got dressed up, went to a studio and got a professional to take photos of us. I ordered a couple of extra prints to take home with me when I went back. They are lying in an envelope in my closet. The ones who had requested the prints and who would have proudly hung them on their wall are not around anymore. I realized there is absolutely no one left who would treasure our visits or our photographs.
I was told to bring a bag of dark chocolates, cans of tunafish and a bottle of advil. Those were standing orders. Whatever I brought on top of those were surprises. Now there is no need for any of those things.
There are these unfinished transactions that we did not have time to finish. I will keep the extra photographs and eventually when I go back I will wrap the shawl like I wrapped their love around me. They do not need the photographs any more as they live in our memories and our hearts now. Sean and I both cried tonight talking about their sudden departure and then laughed too at memories of their constant bickering.
I believe that is how life will be from now on.