For those of you used to reading happy things on my blog, this will come quite as a surprise. I am writing this post in the memory of my mother who passed away this weekend.
I got an SMS from my sister – “Call me if possible” at 6 am. I sort of knew this was coming, my mother had been ill for the past few years, and the past couple of weeks had been terribly bad for her. I had spoken to my sister the night before and had some idea that my terminally ill mother was likely to pass away in the next few hours. So when I received that SMS I was not as shocked as some may think I would have been.
I called up my sister, my aunt answered her cell phone. After some passing around, my sister spoke into the phone. She was crying in a very choked manner. “Aai geli” [Mother passed away”] Then she went on to tell me the time [4.30 pm on Saturday, IST] and the way in which our mother had passed away. I just listened to her transfixed.
No one had prepared me for this. Yes. It is true, that my mother was ill – terminally ill. She had Hepatitis C. We all knew she was suffering, horribly. We knew that this day would come. We knew that she was to pass away. But still, it was hard!! It was unbelievably hard to realize that I [or my sister] was not prepared to say goodbye to my mother.
I choked on the phone. I tried to tell my sister “Sutli ti. Jaunde. Tila garaj hoti tyachi. Radu nakos” [She was relieved. Let it be. Her pain was too great and she needed it. Don’t cry] But I started crying as I began to say that. I managed to get the words across and we cried together for a few minutes.
I was away at my fiance’s cousin’s place for the Thanksgiving weekend, when all of this happened. It was 6 am and I did not want to wake up the household. I cried quietly. Just sitting in my bed. I felt all of the grief wash over me. It hit me hard – now, I could not touch my mother, I would not get any hugs from her, no kisses, I would not hear her voice, I would not see her smile at me. I missed her terribly. At that moment it felt like my world came crashing down. I was afraid to face it. I did not realize how much I depended on my mother and her support when facing the world. I felt all alone in that moment.
“Swami teenhi jagacha, Aai vina bhikari” [The lord of all the three worlds, is a beggar without his mother] This statement was part of a song my mother listened to and quoted often, specially when she missed her mother. I understood now the full force and truth in that statement. I did feel lonely and orphaned at her loss. I knew that I have now lost to death the one relation that is the purest and deepest form of love – the bond between the mother and the child.
I spent the entire day grieving over my loss, and my family (my fiance, his cousins and their parents) were with me through this grief. They talked to me through it, and reminded me that my mother deserved the relief that she got through her death.
I spent Sunday talking to my relatives and friends about it, and crying some more. I returned home on Sunday night. As I sat on my couch last night (Sunday) I wondered how I was going to cope with this loss. I decided to go in to work the next day. I spoke to my family and they too were planning to do the same thing from Wednesday.
I went in to work today, hoping to find comfort in routine. But my colleagues and superiors thought I should go back to Mumbai to spend time with my family. They kept trying to convince me about it. Finally, they sent me home at lunch time, and told me to write about my mother, my feelings and my grief. They thought that perhaps that may help me better in coping with my loss.
I am not sure whether it is cultural or individual. But I guess every person has a different way of coping with their loss. My family is not in denial of their pain, but they are trying to make it manageable, and that is why we all decided to go back to work. The loss is too great for it to go away by mourning for a few days. It will be with me forever. I will miss my mother all my life – but I am happy knowing that she is in a better place. I believed that working was a good way for me to regain my mental balance. Smaller more manageable tasks would be easier on me and help me in taking one day at a time. But my superiors felt otherwise. In trying to help me cope better they have sent me home to write about my grief, to spend time alone at home and cry. Is this a good way for me to grieve? I do not know. Should I be sitting alone thinking about my mother? Do I need to spend more time crying? I do not know. I would think that I need to get away from it for a while and I need to let time heal me. I am not sure that crying more will help me. But I guess cultures are more different from what I thought initially. I learnt this for the first time that in some cultures, people spend time celebrating the life of a deceased person in the funeral, so that they can say their goodbyes and let go. But in our culture people only meet to mourn. There are no specific things that we discuss, or stories that are told. Discussions only depend on the people having the discussions. So I do not wish to return to Mumbai to meet all the people who will discuss my mother’s death. I rather be here and try to regain my mental balance.
But here I am – writing about my grief, in an effort to feel better about it instead. It will take a long time for things to return to normalcy. I guess the move from Mumbaikar to Newyorker seems much harder than I first thought, and in many more ways than one.
- Coping with Terminal Illness: Strategies to Help Students (brighthub.com)
- Marie Claire: Should There Be a Modern-Day Mourning Period? (marieclaire.com)
- How do you help a grieving person (wiki.answers.com)