All About My Mother
It was a Monday and I was just finishing my work day. My phone rang and it was Didi. I ignored her call thinking I would call back as I was in a meeting. She called again five minutes later. This time I took her call even though I was still in the meeting. "Didi let me call you back in five minutes", I told her. When we finally spoke she said, "Mummy hasn't been able to speak all day. She keeps trying to say something but she isn't able to."
I didn't know what this meant medically. After I reached home that evening I spoke to Didi again. She had nothing new to add but there was fear and deep concern in her voice. But there wasn't much I could say to comfort either her or myself. We hung up both wondering about what new suffering lay in store for my sweet mother. That night on August 30 at 12:30, Didi called. Just seeing her number flash on my phone at that time and before she said anything I knew. Her voice trembling and punctuated with tears said, "Mummy, Mummy passed...away."
Every cliché that has ever been written or spoken about the pain of losing a parent is true. At the same time words aren't enough, are so inadequate to express what you really feel, really experience. From the time Didi called till the time I reached Hyderabad - the next morning at 9.30 a.m - I couldn't control my tears. Knowing that Mummy had been bedridden, been suffering, been almost wanting to leave her body didn't (doesn't) ease the pain in any way. Knowing that I had done the best possible by her in getting top-of-the-line medical facilities didn't take away the doubt that if I could have done something to keep her alive and healthier longer.
A part of me of hoped that Didi would call back and say that they had got it wrong. Later Didi told me that she and her husband, who is a doctor, kept checking on Mummy late into the night hoping for the same thing. I guess that's the bond that one shares with a parent especially with one's mother. All three of us sisters, fully grown-up adults and not one of us could or can fathom life without Mummy.
Like in life so too in death, the mundane takes over. There were travel arrangements to be made. Details like time of the cremation, attending to the flow of visitors, phone calls, death-related rituals couldn't be ignored. And even though your heart is laden with grief and your eyes constantly moist with tears, you notice that the world continues its march towards getting on with life. Even you do. You eat, drink, sleep, wake up and then repeat that the next day and then the next and so on. How is it that in my heart I feel and know that my world has come crashing down and yet I continue to outwardly perform every act of living?
Even Daddy who had spent a large part of his life trying not to lose Mummy to death and who had been trying everything possible to stave it off in the last couple of months let the daily routine continue sometime stoic, sometime choking on tears but still allowing life to take its natural course. Like many in his generation, Daddy isn't a great one for expressing emotions verbally. The only thing he allowed himself when I saw him the next morning was this one line: "She has left me alone and gone."
Gone, gone away forever.
One month later there are moments when I hope that is a lie. That she is just away to either of my sister's homes and she will return. I have so much still to share with her. There is still so much I want to learn from her. There are days when things are going well and I want to share it with her for I know that she would be so happy to see me happy.
Death changes life of those left behind. For me it has become a kind of propellent to achieve all that my mother wanted me to. There is now a greater fire, a stronger desire to be all that she wanted me to be and much more. She gave me life, she brought me up, gave me an education, gave me my values achieving everything she wanted me to is the least I can do for her. And for Daddy who is now the custodian of her legacy. That would be my way saying thank you and I love you Mummy...
More about Archana Jahagirdar
Archana Jahagirdar has been a journalist for almost 20 years having worked for some of the most prestigious names in the media business like The Times of India, Outlook and India Today. Her last full-time assignment was with the Business Standard where she also wrote a column on luxury and fashion. She has done her Masters and Bachelors in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University.
‘My Parents’ Daughter’ will be a weekly update, narrating Jahagirdar’s experience in taking care of her chronically-ill parents over the last eight years. From dealing with doctors and hospitals to taking decisions regarding medical treatment to changing dynamics in other family relationships – this blog notes the journey of a caregiver.
- + Love, Actually. And what lies in between...
- + Medicine can't guarantee my mom a quality life
- + 'My mum's 72, young still. And I want her back fine'
- + A depressed dad, being single & life in between
- + Why middle-class India can't afford to fall sick
- + Role reversal: Looking after ailing parents
- + When the child becomes a crisis manager