Calm, poised, and unperturbed Alone but not lonely, it rides the tides Greenish yellow with serrated edges Light and weightless, it bounces along Savours everything that comes its way Dances through the turbulent hill stream Drifts across the glassy placid lake Sways in the graceful murmuring river Doused by water, sparkling and murky Not sodden nor shaken, it glistens and shines Tumbles into the vast limitless ocean Rises and falls, plays with the waves Infinite happiness and boundless joy Home at last, it smiles in peace Doors have opened, time has come It wilts, it fades, it withers away!
At the back of my mind, I always feared this day. I knew I would have to face it someday. Yet, I didn’t see it coming. I wasn’t prepared, I guess one can never be prepared for this day.
It was the fateful evening of August 15, when my father suddenly left us forever. It’s exactly a month today. Still to conquer the shock and disbelief completely, it feels like he has just stepped out and will be back soon.
He was hale and hearty even two days back. He wasn’t ailing. The heart and BP related problems were under control and none of these had ever stopped him from leading a perfectly normal life. Physically, he was frail, which can also be attributed to his lean frame. Mentally, his strength was beyond compare.
He had just turned 80 and was anything but an 80-year old. His extraordinarily active nature had earned him the nickname of Dennis the Menace in the family. He would spend most part of his day in the garden, which he painstakingly created over several years. On a typical day, he could be seen tending to his plants in the garden, pruning the hedges, climbing ladders to fix the bamboo support for creepers, mounting the compound wall to tie up the wayward branches of a tree, and so on. His hyperactive nature would worry my mother and she would chide him like a little boy.
We would often discuss that his plants know his touch, they know his presence, and they bloom with happiness for him. His flowers, fruits, and vegetables must be missing his presence in the same way, if not more. His precious little manicured garden will never be the same anymore.
My father was a typical Bengali Babumoshai in his love for fish. His passion was not so much in eating as it was in going to the market to examine the fresh catches of the day, and also in scouting for the exotic varieties of freshwater fishes. The latter would reach exponential proportions whenever we would come home for holidays.
Another passion of his was politics and current affairs. He was extremely opinionated in matters of governance of the country. His antipathy towards a certain political party and a few selective political figures would find unique ways of expression. His introvert nature notwithstanding, he wouldn’t shy away from swearing and using cuss words, which was most of the times amusing but at times irritating too.
The year 2020 is bizarre for humankind. I had never thought this year would also bring about the biggest personal loss for me. My father’s case is a collateral damage of this pandemic year. A fatal fall leading to a cerebral hemorrhage sealed our fates forever. The limited medical facilities in Shillong, where they stay, left us helpless. Bangalore, with its advanced medical facilities would have been ideal. But we could do nothing. The pandemic made immediate interstate movement nearly impossible.
My father seamlessly transitioned into the Afterworld. That remains my greatest solace. He had it easy and did not suffer at all. He was blessed in that sense. Moreover, he passed away indulging in activities he enjoyed the most. He fell on a Tuesday, was fine on Wednesday – did his usual gardening, fish market visits, and swearing at the politicians while watching the evening news. Thursday he was admitted to the hospital, was fully conscious and doing fine. Friday, his condition suddenly deteriorated and he had to be operated. Saturday, he passed away.
I wasn’t there by his side when he breathed his last. Losing a parent is the most difficult thing to come to terms with. I thought I understood when it happened to others, but no I didn’t. Now that it happened to me, I know how it feels.
My life feels like it has fallen apart and as though I am caught up in a whirlwind. Everything feels meaningless. Tsunamis of powerful emotions hit me every now and then. Each time, I try to steer my thoughts towards the positive side of how this has happened. And what could have happened but didn’t.
My father had a good life. I will celebrate his life rather than grieve his death. I owe it to him. I will always remain grateful that he touched my life in such powerful and beautiful ways. I have no regrets and I know that his love and blessings will remain with me for the rest of my life.
It will take me time to adjust to his physical absence. Whenever I’m reminded of him, I will use it as an opportunity to cherish his memories.
Everything happens to somebody else, until it happens to you.
We can never truly apprehend the gravity of a situation till we are in it. This is true for every situation in life. And is more profound for the difficult situations or negative experiences of life. I am not too sure if this is applicable to life’s positive experiences. Happy situations do not have much room for analysis. It just leaves us high and we don’t think why this has happened to me or how do I deal with this – we’re just happy.
I can write about a ton of such life situations to exemplify this. In this post, however, I am focusing on illnesses of near and dear ones.
A Parent Diagnosed with Life-Threatening Disease
A close friend’s father has been recently diagnosed with cancer. He was a very healthy man, who was until now leading a perfectly healthy retired life with his wife (my friend’s mother). They would even go traveling every now and then. The latest one being just a few months ago when they traveled to Nepal. I even met them just after my Nepal trip to exchange travel stories when they were here in Bangalore, visiting my friend’s home.
The cancer news was just too sudden like a bolt from the blue. And the tumor is at a stage when operation is not an option. Surprising as he never had any symptoms. For the first time, I am experiencing the struggles faced by cancer patients and their families. Being closely associated with my friend, I am privy to all the happenings so much so that I can feel her struggles as my own – fighting emotions, running between hospitals and doctors, taking tough decisions, keeping faith despite all the adversities, handling her father’s sentiments and frustrations while managing a household, a job, and an overactive toddler. And, a lot more can be added to the list.
When I used to hear of the struggles of cancer patients and their families, I would just feel bad for the moment and then forget about it. This is the first time I am feeling the struggles. I can place myself in her shoes and feel the helplessness. I am unable to help her in any way and that bothers me a lot.
A Child Diagnosed with a Life-Long Medical Condition
A few months back, another friend’s adolescent son was diagnosed with Type-1 Juvenile Diabetes. Again, for the first time I witnessed the impact of an unannounced life-long medical condition of a child on a family. Their entire lifestyle went topsy-turvy. Adding to it was the emotional turmoil of seeing your child having to live a life of restrictions and inhibitions. There are so many aspects of such a situation that would have never occurred to me otherwise.
A Family Fighting Psychological Disorders
In my own family, I have struggled with close ones suffering from depression and anxiety. I know what it means to have a psychological condition and how normal life can get disrupted in no time. And how the social stigma associated with mental illness makes it even tougher. It’s only in very recent times that there is a lot of awareness in this regard and thankfully so.
For me the very word “depression” is uneasy. I find it utterly uncomfortable when people use the word loosely, such as, “The traffic in Bangalore depresses me.” To such comments, I find my mind saying, “Please find a better word than using the depression word so casually!” Then there are Facebook statuses saying things like – My door is open for you, please come talk to me if you feel down……blah, blah and blah – to which my mind says, “Do you even know what depression is? If talking would be so easy, they wouldn’t land up in this condition!”
Depression and psychosis affect not just the person concerned but an entire family. Relationships get disrupted and nothing ever gets back to normal again. All these become even more difficult when diagnosis is delayed – something which happens all too often. By the time you realise something is not okay, it already late.
Well, we really have no control on things that happen to us. This reminds me of something I read somewhere – In life we may control ship and sail, but never wind and wave.