Ten Years Ago…On This Day

Posted on January 22, 2011


…My mother died. But this is the prelude to the final eventuality.

She had been sick for so long that I used to think she will be in that state for many more years to come. I had resigned to taking care of her. She didn’t speak, eat, move. Just lay on a bed breathing laboriously. Nine months ago, she caught a light cough. It never went. Stayed. Kept her company when I went to college. And squeezed out every last breath of her, slowly and steadily.

I remember our family doctor (who knew my mom since she was in college!) telling my dad two days prior to call all those who needed to be called. In my opinion, they were not required. In my opinion she needed to be surrounded by those who truly loved and understood mom through her good years and bad. But of course, who was going to listen to a mere child! And so, everyone was called.

As the day progressed, her blood pressure dropped. This had never happened. That’s the beauty of AD. It takes away your brain, but leaves the last bit of it, just enough so that your body survives, and nothing else does. Not your memory, your abilities, your personality, your choices…nothing. It’s like being in a coma AND in limbo!

Our house was full of people. Usually mom wouldn’t pay attention to anybody. She would turn when she was made to turn and just be in her own sweet world, breathing heavily. But that day, her eyes perked every time my dad or I or my pregnant sister entered her room. No, I didn’t imagine this. It did happen. It was like she knew it was time for her to go, and she wanted to say goodbye. It was like some part of her was allowed to return so that she wouldn’t go away without letting us know she loved us and would miss us.

And how she held on! Everyone in the family came and paid their respects. It is said in the Hindu tradition that you have to help people to pass on by promising to be okay and well. Some women in the family promised to fast, do some charity. But mom didn’t care.

My dad and I promised to take care of each other. I gave her messages from me for God. Then I put a diya in the temple in our house, and said, when the ghee in this lamp is exhausted and the lamp stops flickering, it will take mom with it.

We all went to sleep. Just Gajra Ben, Chhaya Ben and dad were in her room. Just past 1AM, we heard mom cough loudly. And a few seconds later my dad came out and said, “Shashikala, she’s gone.” She had died in my dad’s arms. Instead of going to her room, I crept into the temple to see. Sure enough, the diya was gone. Complete darkness prevailed.

I thought I was ready to let her go. But I wasn’t. There’s a trigger in my head. I think, “MOM” and a mad rush of tears will push through unashamedly. If I try to stop it, my head feels like it will explode.

This is a story I think of once a year. I am hoping one day I won’t feel the need. Miss you Mom.

Posted in: Relationships