Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I never thought of myself as the earth mother type. But the day the paediatrician handed our first born into my arms and said, "Don't be afraid of what you have to do to look after this baby. Motherhood is like water, it'll find its own level," I was transformed. Every wish, desire, aspiration and ambition I had for myself became secondary. Then our second son was born. Once again, I held a little helpless baby in my arms and wondered at the magic of motherhood. Any doubts I had about whether I had enough love to stretch to two disappeared; as not only did it stretch, it grew exponentially...
Five months before Shekhar died, I discovered a lump in my breast. It came on suddenly and grew quickly until it was visible to the naked eye. Since it was accompanied by weight loss, thoughts of malignancy were never far from my mind.
For over two months till when I could get it tested under the NHS, Shekhar and I panicked, worried and thought of the worst. Then the earth mother kicked in and I did what I do best, I made a list of scenarios. "If this happens, then..." We never told the children till the day I had to go to hospital. It was all according to the plan. If all was okay there was nothing to worry about, if it wasn't then they would have to deal with it. I had a plan for that too. I came home after the extraction and waited...it was benign, the body's detritus. I had prepared for a protracted battle but was sent home from the enlistment centre.
Three months later, looking at Shekhar's still warm body in the hospital, my first thought was - it should have been me. I was prepared, ready. The wrong parent had been taken and God's fingerprints were everywhere...
Since then I have struggled to get out of bed each morning, wanting to hide from life and its vicissitudes. I have pushed against the resistance for one reason and one reason alone - the two beautiful gifts Shekhar left behind. One parent may have gone, why put them through the torture of losing both?
The other day, our youngest expressed the crackling wit of his father. Then he looked at me and said in jest, "It's your fault, you gave birth birth to me." It was a timely reminder of the privilege with which I have been blessed. The bitterness of being abandoned at the post of parenthood faded. It made me realize, I may be the wrong parent...but at least I am still here. God's fingerprints were here too.
Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.
From Phaedra by Sophocles
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Elizabeth Kuhbler-Ross theorized that grief is a continuum starting with denial, moving through anger and depression to finally, acceptance. But as anyone who has experienced it first hand will tell you, grief is a Sisyphean struggle. One swings between the stages, starting one day with anger ending with denial or another with acceptance funneling into depression...human nature trumps any effort to sequence or categorize it.
I have been watching the television programmes marking the first anniversary of the carnage in Mumbai on 26/11/2008. The media is speaking to ordinary people, survivors and those who have lost someone close. There is a commonality I have observed...one year on, there is a significant difference between those who have experienced a personal loss and those who have survived or have been mere observers of the Golgotha that was 26/11. There is a wet deadness in the eyes of those who are grieving. No Duchenne smiles, no tolerance for frivolous banter, an emotional distance...
Having met several people who have experienced similar losses in the past year, I have seen the same deadness in their eyes. They use the same words, in the same flat tone. "I look at people laughing and enjoying themselves and I wonder how they do it. I could do it before but I don't remember how. Wonder if I'll ever feel the same or anything, any more..." I feel the numbness they speak of. It is like my soul has disconnected from my physical body. I have become a functioning, living, breathing, eating third party observer...an emotional zombie...
The night Shekhar died, something broke in me. I don't know how to fix it. I have been told that over time the pointedness of the pain will wear off, acceptance will come to stay and resilience will out. But I know that even though the wound may heal, the scar will remain. The damage has been done...time will tell if it is reversible, if at all. In the interim, that person I see swimming in the sea of grief is me and...I am not waving, I am drowning...
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning.
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning...
From Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith
Friday, November 6, 2009
I started this blog with an audience of only one in mind, as therapy, an expression of what I could not articulate when I spoke. Why then such a public platform? Why not just stick to the journals I wrote ever since I can remember?
My life has been documented in the banal inanities of everyday living, the small crises that buffet the day...on paper with a fountain pen, in numbered copybooks of all shapes and sizes, marking years, journeys, destinations in Bowdlerized words...who knows who might read them and know the tortured soul I truly am?
I remember Shekhar wanting to read what I wrote. "I'm sure you're writing about me..." he would say. "Everything is not about you," I would reply. He would hover and find reasons to peek over my shoulder as I wrote. Soon after he died, the journals became about him. Every page was a letter to him, a litany of what one would be afraid to say to a person who was still alive. In death there is no privacy, everything is accessible...there is no place to hide, no secrets to keep, no approval to seek, no permission to grant...Communication between the dead and the living is the most honest it can be...but it is not enough. Your words float into the ether. There are no echoes...no responses...no consequences...
Hence the blog - to make oneself visible...to reach out and know that someone, somewhere might be touched, might know your pain, might understand...in a world that is bolting past your stillness, it is a cry to be validated, acknowledged as still living.
Vladimir Nabokov the author of Lolita said, "I don't write to touch hearts. I don't even want to affect minds very much. What I really want to produce is the little sob in the spine of the artist-reader." I find myself agreeing with him, the only difference being - I write because there is a little sob in my spine...it appeared 18 months ago. Shekhar put it there...
As soon as one writes one miraculously ignores the current circumstances of one's life, yet our happiness or misery leads us to write in a certain way. When we are happy, our imagination is more dominant. When miserable, the power of memory takes over.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Like most people in love I too had professed that I could not live without the object of my affection. Now he's gone and I am still here. I am surviving, existing without him...life makes liars of us all.
It is eighteen months...everyone says how quickly the time has passed but I know how difficult it has been to get through each moment stretched in grief, in absence, in pain...time is elastic.
In the first few months after Shekhar's death, all I could think of was - what if I die too? That question carried me through the immediate collapse of life as I knew it...I lived with a deadline. I got through each day walking the tightrope between 'if' and 'if only' with an almost manic hold on the only reality I knew and understood. Everything needed to be sorted, organized, consolidated...for the children. Time was an external construct, a limited context. There were no goals, only priorities.
Then at some point around the sixth month, the question turned on its head. What if I live? For a year? For ten? For longer than I had him in my life? The emptiness yawned and consumed both past and present. I decided to live one day at a time but living one day at a time in the shadow of death means living without anticipation, without goals, without meaning, without purpose...without a future.
So since the night I held death in my arms, I have learnt not that life is precious but that when the time comes there is nothing you can do to fight death's cold embrace. Words bounce, tears dry, touch withers...mortmain - the dead hand - grips life. Its hold is so tight that time slows and becomes a fallacy, perspective foreshortens, thought distorts - life and death connect in a visible arc.
Mortality is our mien. We live to die but it is only when death becomes personal do we try to find meaning in life. Till then, death is just a statistic...and numbers don't die.
A death-blow is a life-blow to some
Who, till they died, did not alive become;
Who, had they lived, had died, but when
They died, vitality begun.
XLVI, from Part Four: Time and Eternity by Emily Dickinson
Monday, September 21, 2009
A close friend recommended I watch a movie called 'P S I Love You' after Shekhar passed away. "Give it some time before you do because you might find it hard to watch right now," she had said. A few months ago, I serendipitously found a DVD of the film and bought it. I gave it a month or so before I watched it for the first time. I cried all through...then I watched it again yesterday, with subtitles, and cried again.
For those who haven't seen it, the film is about a young widow who receives posthumous letters from her husband through the first year after he dies from a brain tumour. It's a formulaic romantic comedy ending in true Hollywood style with hope, all loose ends tied up and an amazing emotional recovery. The story stops while the going is good with potential for a happily ever after. Unfortunately, real life isn't so easy.
It is 17 months now and frankly I am finding it harder now than I did in the immediate aftermath. It is because both you and the world are forgiving as you go through the upheaval of the first year, there's so much to deal with and get through. It is like the anaesthetic given to you during surgery. While you are under its influence, you just go through the befuddled motions, putting one step after another. Then the effect starts to wear off...Most stories and books on grief stop here or pick up several years later. I have yet to find one that tells you how to get through the second, and by far, the most difficult year when life continues its quotidian onslaught, the world expects recovery and you are only just figuring out that this is a permanent state of affairs, as hope of a miraculous return to life as before begins to fade...there is no escape, no rescue, no reprieve... the unanswered why still remains.
We experience such hubris when we are in a relationship. We are made visible by the other, by their touch, their words, their looking at us...bearing witness to our lives. We feel we belong, we have a haven where we are accepted, warts and all. We have someone in our corner, whom we can wake up at 2 a.m. with our fears, uncertainties and doubts...you think it will last a lifetime and sometimes it does, till death do you part. Death did us part, Shekhar and I, and the hubris went with him. The thing about widowhood is, it is not a choice one makes. It happens and suddenly you are left alone and incomplete - one half of something that does not exist any more. Life continues, time elapses, grief persists... It is not a movie, it does not end, one does not get to take it out of the DVD player and put it back in its box...and there is no Post Script that says I Love You.
The odour from the flower is gone
Which like thy kisses breathed on me;
The colour from the flower is flown
Which glowed of thee and only thee!
A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,
it lies on my abandoned breast;
And mocks the heart, which is yet warm,
With cold and silent rest.
I weep--my tears revive it not;
I sigh--it breathes no more on me;
Its mute and uncomplaining lot
Is such as mine should be.
On a dead violet by P B Shelley
So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears
From 'The tracks of my tears' by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I stopped believing in God the night Shekhar died. I didn't stop praying though. I prayed in the hope that the belief would return. That the faith with which I entrusted my hopes, dreams and wishes to the Unseen One, ever since I could remember, would find its way back to me. I do it involuntarily, like breathing.
One summer holiday, our Aunt came to spend time with us. I was nine. She was horrified that we made the sign of the cross while passing a Church and could recite the Lord's Prayer but not our own. She took it upon herself to rectify this glaring deficit in our character. My sisters and I spent what seemed like a very long, hot summer studying Gurmukhi and learning how to read the Granth Sahib. I am eternally grateful to her because when she left at the end of the season, I had realized prayer had a method, a technique, a power I hadn't experienced till then. I was never alone or afraid as long as I could pray.
Prayer has since got me through good and bad times, rough and smooth, ups and downs and in-betweens. I stopped asking for things in my prayers when I realized nothing I could ever imagine for myself could match what God had planned for me. Little did I know...
So now there is anger, recrimination and prayer. But a strange thing has happened since the night Shekhar went...I pray - in supplication, in surrender, in hope, in gratitude. I ask for help, I ask for strength, I ask for guidance, I ask for support...like always. Only now I don't know if I'm praying to God or Shekhar...his name slips so easily off my lips. The human has mingled with the divine...God now has a face...
I sit in silent wonder at all I understand.
I am not actively praying.
I have become a prayer.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Osho said that happiness is experienced when you fit with your life, when you fit so harmoniously that whatsoever you are doing is your joy. With Shekhar in it, I fit my life. From the moment we met, there was a sense that everything fit seamlessly, there was a unity in being that bypassed boundaries. It was right, it was cosmic, it was meant to be...
He was my 'kalyana mitra' - noble friend - which Buddhist tradition defines as one who will not accept pretension but will gently and very firmly confront you with your own blindness. Since no one can see life totally, you must depend on the one you love to see for you what you cannot see for yourself. Shekhar saw all things with 'logic, clarity and reasoning' unlike my emotional, reactive and intuitive vision. Without him it's like I wear glasses that are mismatched to my sight, there is no perspective or counterbalance.
One of Shekhar's favourite ice-breaking exercises at the start of his training programmes was to get a male trainee with the biggest feet to exchange footwear with a female trainee with the smallest feet...apart from the comic relief there was a deeper lesson of walking in another's shoes. It was something he did with the ease of an old soul, with compassion, without judgement. For the past 16 months I have tried to walk in Shekhar's shoes and as would be obvious, they don't fit either. He was a big man and for a person used to following his footsteps, his shoes are too big to fill.
He was the rock to my water, the shore to my sea. I miss him, I miss who I was with and because of him and as time elapses, I miss me...because without him I really don't know who I am anymore.
Life has a way of folding onto itself, for him it ended on a wet April night. For the boys and me, it hangs on the hooks of his memories. It just doesn't fit anymore. Life without him is tight, too small, shrunken, as if the threads that held it in place have unravelled and been stitched back with no account for size.
Birthdays and death days mark the two ends of what Shekhar called 'the curved straight line' - the circle of life - beginning and ending seamlessly, giving meaning to each other in an eternal karmic cycle. We celebrate one and mourn the other but the truth is if one happens the other is certain. Birth and death give context to each other, without them the interval is meaningless. Shekhar said he loved beginnings, not endings so it is his day of birth, the beginning, that we mark today. For the next however many hours it is the 21st of August across all datelines... Happy Birthday, sweetheart.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
From Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone by W.H. Auden
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Some people forget how to smile and laugh. Others suffer from 'survivor's guilt'. Some emanate self pity, bitterness and anger. Somatic retraction expresses the burden of despair and sadness for some, while others just throw themselves into a related cause or their work, relegating it to the realm of the subconscious. There are an evolved few who accept with equanimity and live by what the Indian scriptures propound - detachment. But whichever way you cope - grief is not pretty. We are uncomfortable because of and around it. All that naked unbridled emotion, exposed vulnerability, uncontrolled and tortured suffering without the safety of censure is scary...so we tiptoe around this elephant in the room.
I have learnt that there is nothing right you can say to a grieving person. No words can really make it better. The inner censor takes a back seat in grief and no matter what anyone says the pain is so overwhelming at times that the person who is grieving loses sight of borders - both within and without. Words escape, emotions are like napalm and collateral damage is high.
Words are clever little creatures, aren't they? They slip off tongues, intended to comfort but end up as platitudes. Take the simple question "How are you?" What can one really say in reply? None of the standard answers work. "Time will heal" throws me every time. I live on grief time, it passes differently for me - it expands into painful nanoseconds experienced like the pecks of a bird on living flesh, each moment burdened by memory or what could have or should have been - months and years are too long to consider or put in perspective. "The good die young..." - what does that make me and the boys? "Enough..." - is there a statute of limitations on grief? "It could have been worse" "At least he left you with good memories" "Get a grip..."
I have only recently realized that these words trouble me because of a simple truth - I am not ready to hear them. Some day I will probably look back and know they were true but I am just not there yet. I don't know when I will be...the room is small and I can't seem to be able to get the elephant to leave...
I have no skin
Every breath hurts, every memory is a wound
All boundaries have vanished
I stand exposed, fragile and vulnerable
From I miss me by JSV
" Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"No more 'seeing' holidays, the next holiday has to be a 'doing' one," Shekhar had said even as he booked a trip to Greece for the family in March. Truth be told, he had tried to book a chalet in the Alps but had left it too late, so here we were on our way to Athens. "The boys have never seen real snow..." he said over and over again during the course of our trip. "I really want them to see what it's like in the snow..." The next holiday didn't happen.
In Greece we saw history, more history and yet more history. It's hard not to...it resides everywhere - under each step you take, in the walls, in the words, sights, smells and sounds.
While preparing for the trip, I had read about the Benaki Museum somewhere. One man's passion for collection translated into room upon room of artifacts. In a small area on one of the floors were bottles that had been used to collect widows' tears. In ancient Greece, tradition and superstition demanded that the tears of the widow be collected in lachrymatories so that they did not fall on the body of the deceased. The tears were later poured upon the grave. The Victorians embraced the tradition in their fascination with death, as an elaborate ritual of grief. During Victorian funerals, men and women shed tears for the deceased and collected them in cigar shaped vials. The story goes that these vials had special stoppers. When the tears finally evaporated, the mourning would be complete.
The idea piqued my curiosity. The measured approach to grief was strangely fascinating. I wanted to see for myself how one could pour grief into a receptacle, contain it, limit it...to a vase or bottle the size of a perfume...50 ml of grief? What if it overflowed? Would the widow or mourner recalibrate their grief to fit the vessel? Or, would there be many bottles, each signifying the ebbing of pain and receding grief? I still haven't understood the reasoning behind the tradition but my single pointed focus on it seems prescient. But then everything seems prescient in retrospect...
When we flew back carrying a heavier load of baggage than we left with, some of it intangible in the form of memories...Shekhar reiterated his desire to show the boys snow. We came home, unpacked and settled our tired bodies into our beds that night. It doesn't make a sound when it falls and it fell all night...snow. We woke to a white world. He couldn't take the boys to the snow, so the snow came to him. It wasn't the first time God had really listened to Shekhar...
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled --
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;
Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love...
From poem 561 by Emily Dickinson
Friday, July 10, 2009
The rest is silence - Hamlet's last words, in the eponymous play written by Shakespeare, hold many meanings. In death, there is rest and silence...after death, for those left behind there is only silence.
Over the past year, this silence has grown to a deafening crescendo. No more phone calls at odd times of the day, no more conversations as we wait to fall asleep, no more recounting of the day's travails...no more sound. It still amazes me how quickly it became quiet. In just an instant all that was left was silence. We live around the silence, it is a physical presence in our lives now...just like the emptiness.
The void left behind by the loss of the physical being that was Shekhar is palpable. It is in the empty cupboard spaces, in the missing hugs and touches, in the vacant chair at the dinner table, in the driver's seat of the car and our lives. Still we believe that he's around us - alive in the silence and the emptiness - in our dreams, thoughts and words.
Some day the empty silences will become a habit. As humans that is what we do, given long enough we become accustomed to things that are unbearable. Till then, in the quiet emptiness, we will live with and bear the echoes of silence.
Let me come to be still in your silence
And let me talk to you with your silence
That is bright as a lamp
Simple, as a ring
You are like the night
With its stillness and constellations
Your silence is that of a star
As remote and candid...
From I like for you to be still by Pablo Neruda
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I was recently reading some first person accounts of people whose lives had been ravaged by conflict and one particular story just stayed with me. The woman said, and I paraphrase, "We are always dressed because we don't know when we might have to leave." She spoke of sleeping with her shoes on and the uncertainty of her life resonated with me at a level I didn't expect.
In this past year, metaphorically speaking, I too have been "always dressed", living at an unsustainable level of alertness that is now beginning to tell on me. When one has an end in sight or when it is a known or familiar transition, the mind, body and emotion synergize and deal with the uncertainty knowing it is just a phase. Quite like the marathon runner sprinting towards the finish line after consistently putting rubber to tarmac, step after step after step, overcoming all physical and mental resistance. The uncertainty that the boys and I deal with every moment of every day is seemingly endless, the marathon started a little over a year ago and we're still running - step after step after step - with little idea of direction or meaning.
I know and understand, at an intellectual level, that things will change, this too shall pass and maybe we will settle into an uncertain certainty. In every other way, I have been beaten into exhaustion, surrender and apathy because I've realized - what is the point if you're "always dressed" when there's no where to go?
Due to cost cutting directives, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off.
-Joke sent by SMS
Monday, June 8, 2009
God's Acres, obituaries and remembrances have always held a fascination for me. I believe they define the transcience of our lives and give weight to the present. Some obituaries are exemplary biographies of lives that inspire you to live larger, dream bigger and love more. Remembrances, however, are a different kettle of fish. The time lag between the passing and the remembering gives me pause. How long before the grief lightens...one year, two...ten years...a lifetime...never?
On a windy, overcast day in January a few years ago, I dragged a friend to visit some of the oldest cemeteries of Hong Kong. Carved cheek-by-jowl into a hillside in Happy Valley, these cemeteries hold the dead of three religious denominations. Ornate headstones, cairns, unmarked graves and a columbarium are visited by the living - to pay respect, to talk to loved ones, to find a lost relative and some like me, out of a morbid curiosity to see the place of rest of the hundreds that marked the history of the city.
Cut to after Shekhar's death. On a blustery and wet English morning, as our older son and I walked past a church cemetery in St Albans he said, "I am so glad Dad isn't buried. If he was, I'd always feel a pull to come back to see him. At least this way he is free, not lying in the ground somewhere." I was surprised by the insight and wisdom that lay behind his observation. I couldn't agree with him more because although it was extremely painful to consign Shekhar's physical body to flames, it was an essential step towards letting go at both an emotional and spiritual level. I cannot say when we will get there or if we ever will but I do know a semblance of peace from knowing that he is not bound to a small piece of earth...we can talk to him anywhere, anytime and he can listen.
"Never say of anything, "I have lost it," but "I have returned it." Is your child dead? It is returned. Is your wife dead? She is returned. "But he who took it away is a bad man." What difference is it to you who the giver assigns to take it back? While he gives it to you to possess, take care of it, but don't view it as your own..."
Epictetus, in the Enchiridion
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
It was the date when Columbine happened, it was the date 168 people died in a plane crash, it was Hitler's birthday, the anniversary of the day 76 perished in a fire in Waco, Texas, the date of the Oklahama City bombing...it was also just an ordinary day which some celebrated and others mourned.
Joan Didion in "The Year of Magical Thinking", her memoir of the year following the death of her husband, writes about life changing in an instant on an ordinary day.
It was an ordinary day for us too. Typical English weather - a light drizzle from a murky sky. Saturday. The weekend. The boys didn't want to have their hair cut so he went to the barber alone. He was being teased at work for letting his hair grow 'Einstein-ian'. I had my own agenda; a glass shelf that had broken during our last move had to be replaced. On that ordinary day, we did ordinary things.
That night, events happened and our lives were forever divided into a before and after. The day marked, here on forward, to be mourned.
When it had just happened, I kept saying everyone should know when they are going to die. After all, it is the only certainty in life. That way we would live more meaningfully and the ones we would leave behind would be better prepared for this eventuality. Or so I thought at the time. But having carried death on my shoulder for the past year, I have realized that it is too heavy a burden. That is why we relegate the certainty of death to the corner of our minds, living each day with the hubris of time eternal.
About the time of death, our scriptures say :
Tith vaar na jogi jaane
Rut maah na koi
Jo karta shrishti ko saaje
Aape jaane soi
Which roughly translates to:
Even the yogi does not know the date or day
No one knows the season or month
The one who made the world
Only He knows
Only He knows and this was the day He chose. So here we stand at another series of milestones - this was the day he died, this was the day he was cremated, this was the day his ashes were immersed in the Southern confluence...the days, dates, milestones pile up and I wonder why we mark them. Do we think of him more on these days and less on the others?
Actually, it is not the remembering that marks the day but the reality. On those other days it is easier to fool oneself into thinking it never happened...to pretend that it is just an ordinary day.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Today it is exactly a year since my husband passed away. I have been counting days to no purpose. From today every reference point for a memory with him will be more than a year old.
Geographically and chronologically, our sons and I have come what seems a long way but in many other ways we're still where we were, as we sat huddled in my bed on the night of April 19, 2008 - stunned, anguished, uncomprehending while our world crashed around us.
That night, like us, his shoes, half drunk glass of Diet Coke, jacket and briefcase waited for his return. Today all we have are his touch, his words, his pictures, his smell trapped in most things that surround us...it's hard not to expect him to just walk cheerfully through the door with familiar footsteps and callouts. Despite knowing better, we wait, holding our breaths...like the pause button has been pressed on our lives.
The memory of the time immediately after is harsh but fragmented - trying to coax his unresponsive body to breathe, watching helplessly as the Emergency Medical Team worked on his heart, begging to be allowed to accompany him, refused, following the flashing lights of the silent ambulance to hospital in our neighbour's car, the voice of the nurse as she said, "We're sorry...", begging again, the dreaded phonecalls at an unearthly hour, the sleeping angel in a ruffled collared paper gown in hospital, the encounter in the Chapel of Rest - where his swollen, refrigerated body waited for a funeral, prayers for the body in a coffin carried on the shoulders of friends and family, the coffin rolling into a flaming oven, the acrid smell of burning, a big man reduced to ashes that fit in a shoe-sized box...
The boys and I came to India, stripped of everything we knew to be certain. It has been a struggle to regroup, rebuild and reshape our lives around the giant void he left behind. It's easier to get through each day believing that this is transient and we will soon go "home" - that is and has always been where he is.
The boys have now moved to the next year in their new school. They are coping with their shattered hopes, dreams and expectations in the best way they can, with a constant eye on me and how I am doing. It is a heavy burden for their young shoulders... I am blessed that everyday, I get to see him live and breathe through them.
I have spent the most part of this past year mopping up the detritus of our lives across three countries. Still much remains undone. To not feel overwhelmed, I continue to chip away in small measures - one moment, one hour, one day at a time...
Since April 19, 2008, all our milestones have been silent salutes to him - without colour, celebration or joy. Maybe, someday the hunger for life will return. Someday the words that will better express this sanitized version of our journey of grief will come too. Till then we will wait, leaking emotions, just wanting to go "home".
This is for all the friends, family and angels who have helped and supported us through this difficult time. We couldn't have gotten this far without you. We are humbled, honoured and blessed to have you walk with us...walk a little longer; this journey is too hard to undertake alone. But tread softly while my angel sleeps...the rest is silence.