Thursday, October 30, 2014

Parcelling pain

Shekhar was rather passionate about footwear, which had led to many a laugh when it came to fighting for shoe space in shared cupboards. He would spend an inordinate amount of time in their upkeep. Helping him shop for them was another story…he was like a targeted missile and knew exactly what he wanted, obsessing over it until he found just the right pair. He even used shoes as a metaphor in his training programmes…

About ten days ago, our younger son said he needed a pair of ethnic slippers for an event he was attending. His foot size is now the same as his father’s, so I suggested that we check out Shekhar’s footwear, which I had put away with an absent mind after he passed.

We pulled down the box and went through his shoes. A pair still had his socks in them, others were meticulously packed with polish and brush, still shining from his hand. It was almost as if he could walk back anytime and step into them or demand that my son stop wearing his precious shoes…we wish…

As we repacked the box for another time, the hand that was playing games with my gut let go. It felt like I had packed the pain of fresh remembrance with his shoes for now. The tears stilled with my heart. I had literally parcelled the pain. It is one lesson that I have learnt in these past six years…from the first instance when overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of his passing, everything shut down – my mind, my emotions, my breath…I have intuitively broken down the pain into metaphorical parcels. This one which revisits every time the boys reflect him, the other while cooking something he loved, yet another when something he preciously guarded reminds me of his essence…the parcels shrink with each opening…some will never be opened again…that is both the magic and tragedy of time and memory.

I read somewhere that healing is a process not an event…the parcels are my process. I pack away things, memories, pain for another time…sometimes I forget what I put away. When Shekhar was alive, this habit of squirreling was pleasant and surprising, leading to sudden discoveries, re-acquaintance and even some remorse at having bought something I already had. But now, the things I put away are parcelled pain.

After my return to India, I kept unopened boxes as a visible reminder that I was not yet home…wondering if I would ever be. In the past week, I have physically removed these boxes. A huge step for me in accepting that for now this is home, as much as any place without Shekhar can be. Like the boxes, someday, I expect that I will be brave enough to open and release the pain from the parcels. Until then, I will repack them each time with the sweetness of remembrance…not pain…that is the hope.

Death asked Life: Why does everybody love you and hate me?
Life replied: Because I am a beautiful lie and you are a painful truth.