The last time I cried in my mother’s lap was when my father died, three years ago. It was a warm place where I could put my head down and not care if her saree was drenched with my tears. It was a secure space where I was able to weep, spilling regret and sadness. It helped. Then it was her turn. I was up to a task, I had no idea about. The steep wall of grief rose every morning and moderated a little every evening, when we all sat down on floor to have dinner and cracked a few jokes to remember my father’s humorous side. His picture was in the corner, covered in garland with a half-burnt incense stick in front of it and I got a faint realization about death. How distant and silent it was but only in the corner, watching us – eating, laughing and crying. Moving and getting back to life.
The days to come were worse. I helped with removing things from his closet. I talked to my mom about donating his eight-hundred books. As a kid, I remembered, how he collected money over several months to buy two steel armoires to arrange his brown paper covered books in an alphabetical order. Diminished moth balls rolled on the floor as we opened them and so did my mom’s unstoppable tears. Memories of him wrapped around our heads, hearts and feet. It became impossible to move even as if we stopped breaking down in front of each other but waited for solitary spaces to let our baggage rest.
In all sad and frustrating mayhem, I learnt a lot about human interactions; I realized what my father meant to the community, his place of work and people in general. I also realized that he left a part of him in every piece of clothing he had, the pictures he took, the phrases he said and the lives he touched – things that were floating without him but truly belonged to him and always will. People from all over the city and nearby towns stopped by to pay respect and to share their stories of their wonderful interaction with my father. All my life I’d recognized him as a man who helped others, but the magnitude of souls he reached out, was overwhelming. In some ways, his physical dying and death showed me who he really was. It made me proud but it made me miss him more.
I acknowledge that when a loved one dies, a part of you dies but that person starts living in you – maybe in the structure of your weird nose, the unusual size of your feet, the silly lingo you always end up saying, the pictures you took when no one was ready and the footprint of values with which he/she stamps your soul. The day we lose these simple yet profound connections, especially the last one – we most certainly lose them.
From frantic google searches on afterlife to meditations on impermanence, I have come a long way in accepting his death. Sometimes, tears burst on a birthday or an anniversary but for the most part, I feel fortunate and content that he was a significant part of my life and I was his. If there is something called love – I am beginning to understand what it is.
Above essay in response to Yeah Write#133