<Some of the elements in this post were written almost 2 years ago. But I finally found the courage to publish it>
Death – the only constant in life. The only guaranteed outcome of life.
The loss of a parent can be devastating. I lost mine a few months ago. Daddy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on May 31, 2014. He underwent chemotherapy in June, August and finally November. By mid-September it was fairly obvious that the treatment was ‘palliative’ – a euphemism in the medical business for “If you have money to spend on a terminally ill person you are in the right shop”. He died November 24.
The days following his death were a blur – the cremation, the rituals, the trip back to the US along with a grieving mother, the catching up at work while trying to deal with the reality of not hearing dad’s voice ever again.
Friends and family alike commended me on how I handled the situation. I took a screenshot of the text from my friends “Shravy – you just handled a key life situation gracefully – you are an inspiration to others now”. It felt good – to be honest. This is exactly how dad would’ve wanted me to handle it – stoic and dignified.
The months after his death were hectic. I was training for, and ran the 4-Day Dopey Challenge. When I think back, I guess it was more an emotional challenge I wanted to overcome than the physical venture. Work and family – which had taken a back seat during the tumultuous few months in 2014 – came back into focus as time wore on.
A book recommended by a cousin – Many Lives, Many Masters – brought some much needed solace.
One Year Later…
I’ve dug into myself the last year and tried to figure out why it hurts as much as it does when you lose a parent. My father was not an emotional man when I was growing up. He was detached, even aloof during my childhood and adolescence. He loved spending time with family but never given to things like “well done, great job, I’m proud of you” kind of stuff. To be fair, not many Indian dads of his era betrayed much emotion. As he became older he started being very emotional. As I went away and started living in the United States he probably missed me a lot. He always hinted at me taking up a job in India – without so much as saying “I want you to come back and live here”. But deep inside he would’ve wanted to live among his children and grand children, much like his father before him.
I guess it has to be the attachment. For most people there are 2 people that have always been with you since your birth – your parents. There is never a time when they were NOT there. You’ve always assured yourself of their security. When you lose a parent you’ve lost something innate, something elemental. In the Indian tradition, you’ve lost your umbrella, your emotional sunshade.
I felt a deep emotional void the past few months. Throughout the year we all felt the absence. I guess the first year is the hardest – the New Year, the birthday, the wedding anniversary, our own birthdays. The inexistence comes to the fore every single occasion. Daddy’s was invariably the first call on any birthday. He would remember our Hindu birthdays as well. He would not miss a festival. His ringtone was the song “Agar Tum Mil Jao Zamana Chod Denge Hum”. I miss calling that number. I miss expecting that song whenever I dialed his phone. I miss him terribly.
Two Years On…
I have started writing again – albeit intermittently. It’s March 2017.
Someone remarked at a party recently “has it really been 2 years?” Well yes, it has. Life has slowly moved on. I guess the best indicator (if we can call it that) is mother – she cries still but instead of every phone call it is now once every 5 or 6. We now fondly remember his quirks and habits.
For me, there are times when – out of nowhere – a memory flashes in the mind. The heart swells up with sorrow. Eyes moisten. Memories flash across the mind. The events of the last day, the last words, some last sights play back in the head. Sometimes I think if there could’ve been an alternate ending – anything we could’ve done differently. Natural treatment? Yoga and Pranayama? Voodoo (yes I’ve thought of this as well). What would you not give to have a few minutes with him, hear that voice, speak to him. Alas!
I noticed a strange thing lately. Few of my friends lost a parent in these intervening years after dad’s death. I felt an immediate affinity to them. An urgent need to commiserate. I spent a long time chatting with DV after his mother’s death. When I visited India I met him in Hyd. When our Alphonsus’ gang met in Nov ’16 I went out of my way to talk to two of my friends about their respective fathers, who had passed away at or around the same time as dad. I asked them how they felt, if they experienced any depression. PVL seemed to connect. He agreed he experienced grief and depression long after. He took to philosophy and religion. They say grief dwindles when shared. I’ve tried to share mine, in my own ways.
I started writing this in January 2015. I can’t say I have put the grief to rest. But it seems better now. I feel I can move on – at least for now.
I had started off this post thinking I’ll share my heartache, the loss of one of the most beloved persons in my life. It ended up being a journal. I’m not sure if this can be shared or published. But I think I will, in case it benefits someone who lost their loved ones.
I have come to believe – time is the best healer.
An account of his last day alive are published here (some of the entries are very emotional so forgive me)