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I was not on very good terms with my brother, and my mother had given up on true living and I couldn’t get through to her. But their deaths so quickly one after another taught me a lot about my family and myself.
It was the beginning of April, a cheerful month when I had barely started my career as a professor and was still learning my ropes of conducting MBA classes. I left the college that day with enormous satisfaction and many plans cropping in my head. I had kick started an activity which I understood would go a long way in attracting student interest for the subject. I was on top of the world because I was doing good!
The phone rang that evening as I took the turn from the gate of the college and I decided to take the call. So I parked the car opposite my college and what I heard left me numb for quite some time. The call was from Delhi and the caller informed that he was a police officer and whether I knew someone by a particular name.
That was my brother’s name. My heart sank just a little. But I was completely unprepared for what he said next. Your brother’s body has been found in a decomposed state in his house which was locked from inside. He must have been dead for at least four days.
You don’t know how to react to a call like that. I said I am coming to Delhi to take charge of the situation and hung up. My colleague, whom I was dropping to her home nearby, was also helpless in the situation. She tried her best to show compassion, but I was stoic. I said I was fine and for sure I felt fine at that moment. I needed to be alone and as soon as I could. I needed to think. I needed to understand what I had just heard.
I dropped her off against her protests to stop me for some time in her home and politely declining her offer to drive me home. I knew if I stopped I would not be able to go. And my home was still 25 kilometres from where I was. And I wanted to keep driving, I did not want to relax my mind. During my drive home I learned so much about my own ability to handle disaster and also about weaknesses I did not know I had. I think in that hour and a half drive, I would have aged ten years. At home my husband was waiting for me, I had called and told him about it on my way back.
The death that left me crying like a baby and left me in a state of shock. I had lost my brother. A brother I once loved the most in the world. The brother who hurt me the most, later in my life. I did not know whether I should remember his betrayal or his love. I did not know whether I should cry or just hold my tears back because I hardly ever talked to him anymore, without wishing the conversation ended as soon as possible? Or should I blame myself for not going to help him and try sorting out his cobwebs of difficulties which he had created around himself?
I wondered how someone can allow himself to just pass away so aimlessly. We like to believe that everyone close to us have purpose in their lives and will live life like life-as-we-know-it. They will die yes, but with dignity.
I could feel the indignity in his death. His body was defaced, retching and yet I wanted to run and hold his hand for the last time. Talk to him for the last time. Look at him and keep that last image of him in my mind. And all I could do was just get one glimpse of him from a distance, my chance to identify the corpse. His face was disfigured. He had died in his sleep, of heart attack. Later his colleagues confirmed that he had been feeling very weak lately. They had advised him to see a doctor, but he refused. He was a doctor. He knew he was dying. He bore the calm expression which he always bore in his sleep. He was sleeping.
I saw some maggots which had fallen from his body on the floor of the morgue, a sheet which covered his body had been dumped in the dustbin behind me and it reeked of rotting corpse. I just kept looking at the maggots, I did not feel nauseated by the smell, I wished I could pick those maggots, I wished I could take that sheet with me. I did not wish for anything more at that moment. I just wanted the ordeal to take its course for as long as it took.
And back home I had one more soul longing to leave, yet unsure about her journey. My mother. She had been bedridden for three years now. The question was, should we inform her of the sudden demise of her firstborn. Of the one child she held dearer over the other two. We decided in favour of it.
My mother had been living only subliminally now. Hardly as a member of the family because she had given up on life already. Terminally ill, unable to walk, unable to see and most of all unable to talk sense. I often wonder why people choose to die before they die. But I could never get through to my mother after she gave up on living.
She wasn’t very shocked at the news. My brother was driving himself to just such an end for a very long time. She feared for him the most. And that is the reason she feared dying. She was lifeless yet holding to just one purpose. And that purpose had gone now.
My mother who knew biases more than empathy. My mother who was raised by a step mother and was unaware of her step motherly treatment towards her own children. My mother was now losing her mind and her body. Her soul was tortured and tired. Her mind had given up to the unresolved conflicts. The following year in the early part of March, not even a year had passed since my brother passed away, she left us too. This time I did not cry.
I completed all my duties towards her and I thought this was it, the end of an era. My father who had passed away many years ago of a massive heart attack, went just as untimely as my brother had done. With my mother gone, everyone who was older to me was gone from my life. Leaving just my younger sister and me.
Yet in the aftermath, I realised I missed my family. The same family I could not bear to be with. The same people who I thought had hurt me.
I did not understand this conflict but I was restless. I was living, I was laughing and I appeared completely in control. I did not appear to be mourning. But there was something missing. I did not know what it was. I started indulging in unusual activities. I found myself walking for hours on the streets, I found myself neglecting work and just going away to some place far away, trekking or just sitting silently. Finally I took one big decision, I decided I wanted to be alone and driving for some time. I chose a place about 400 kilometres from home and drove all the way, to this place.
And this was when, after a month of my mother’s passing away, I realised I was sad, and I was in a lot of pain and turmoil. I realised that I did not know enough about this turmoil, which was only making me more forlorn and sad. I was running from some feelings, some thoughts, and some emotions which came from way back in the past. From a time when in my world all was well and I was the centre of the universe. My childhood.
I learned I was once an infant, I did not doubt my parents then, I unconditionally loved them. I would have once seen them as an extension of my own being. I realised I loved my brother the same way. He was older to me and he was my companion when growing up. I realised all the swings our relationships had gone through over the years, did not alter that love which I had for my family. Some part of each one of them also had this uncorrupted love for me. Death had completely wiped out our differences. It was so complete and irreversible.
I learned about the irreversibility of death first time, when I saw my father’s body lying there on the plank, ready for his last journey, his face taut from last night, when he was experiencing the heart attack and my brother accused him of acting it up! The irreversible damage had been done at that moment, in that night. All that followed were only collateral damages.
I sat at this place, a meditation centre 400 kilometres from home and began recovering the pieces of my past which I had dumped into pits of hatred and I reincarnated them. I learned that my love for my family is unflinching. That I have been denying myself the purest part of me with the forced hatred.
The two deaths taught me what life really stands for. What to value in life and what to avoid. It’s so simple and so obvious, we feel we can ignore it. And we end up in the cesspool of hatred built on top of a beautifully curated garden of unconditional love.
Let life be, no matter what others do. Let your one life be the way it wishes to be.
Author’s Note: Dear Readers, this is my journey through some of the most excruciating months of my life. It left me drained for long. Yet every misery teaches us to value life more. And these Incidents have left me more alive than before.
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I am a Chartered Accountant and a Mother of a 7 year old. Writing is
This is so beautifully written! An Eye opener of sorts. .Yet I feel that maybe holding on to grudges seem far more easier for people than just forgiving and moving on. Wish we could all learn to just look beyond the mistakes of people, keeping in mind the fact that life is too unpredictable.
Thanks Jaishree. Agree with you. I would like to add, that it is not about life, it is about how one lives through it. Life is just a series of happenings. Living on the other hand is a choice.
I had tears welling up in my eyes as I read this. You have gone through so much of pain and loss, and I think you have been very brave to write about it. I feel this would have given you some relief from your pent up emotions. I wish and pray that all the comes your way henceforth are happy and joyful moments or is it the other way – I am sure that you will live each moment with joy.
Have you read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B?” i think writing about her loss helped Sheryl tide over her tough times and find meaning in life.
I am sure you will be the source of strength and inspiration for your students. best wishes.
Thanks Vanaja, appreciate your beautiful message. Yes I have read Option B. Sheryl Sandburg is so much of a diver (into the turbulent emotions)! I loved it. Your heart felt wishes are truly a treasure I will keep with me. Wish you a great and happy life. You are a bundle of compassion. Stay that way.
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