I often wonder what it would be like if Shekhar were still alive. It is usually around milestones like his birthday this coming week. He would be 52. Where would we be? What would we be doing? I let my imagination examine all kinds of scenarios. The question that stumps me every time is – who would I be?
As life unfolds and reveals its secrets, it becomes harder and harder to imagine yourself in a different place, time, situation as a person different from who you are at that moment. It is one of those strange distortions. Although time and memory are elastic, together they can create a hall of mirrors where it is difficult to know for sure what is real and what is an illusion. Everything is a reflection of or in relation to who you are now.
Death works a different type of magic. It traps the person forever at the age they died. So try as I might to imagine Shekhar as he would be now, I always see him as he was when he passed.
There is another twist. Over the past six years, the boys and I have built tentative scaffoldings around the voids and spaces he left behind. Gauze like covers hide these misshapen gaps in our lives…fragile webs woven from memories because the physical space has been overrun…the cupboards, the rooms, the bathroom shelves…only traces of him remain in the things he left behind. As the corporeal has faded, needing concrete triggers like a photograph, a smell, a sound for remembrance…the presence remains. Ageless, shapeless…an abstraction. His imprint endures, living and breathing in a genetic legacy.
Would Shekhar fit in our lives as they are now? It would require a dimensional warp. Too much has happened since. His presence is all we can accommodate. I cling to the last vestiges of him. It is like clinging to a shadow. Shekhar made life safe, comfortable and stable. Ours is now diametrically opposed. I crave the balance. I don’t question this longing. It is part of who I am now. I would not be this person, if he was still here. There has been growth, change, transformation…organic, circumstantial and multifarious. Like a sapling that grows under the shade of a large tree…then one day...
Before the worst happened, I was certain I would not be able to live without him. But life had other plans. It has taken some doing and is still a struggle but I have not only survived, I have thrived. I will never know who I would have been if Shekhar were still alive but I would really like to believe that he would be both surprised by and proud of who I have become…
Vish you were here…
To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
From 'Love after love' by Derek Walcott