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Supriya Jain lost her husband in an accident after 15 years of married life. A Piece of Him is her effort to make sense of the grief following this tragic loss.
When people are taken away from us we try and hold on to things. Do we get to do that? Or does that even make a difference?
It’s a month today since he’s gone. Do things feel different? I don’t know. Am I more upset today than I was yesterday? Perhaps not. Is it that we just give undue importance to dates than they deserve? What’s a week or a month or a year? That he’s gone is now a reality and no date, no time, and no moment can change it. All I can do now is look back on moments we spent together and be thankful for them.
Let me go back to the day that I found out about this.
12th August 2015
Just like that he was a pile of ashes. And I wanted a part of it. I had wanted so many things in the last few hours, something to hold on to – his hand, a lock of his hair, or a small part of his ashes. I didn’t get any of this. Since we cremate our dead and disperse their ashes in water, I didn’t even get a grave marker. A place where I could go and talk to him sometime. Or just sit in silence that he alone would understand. So he’s vanished really, gone in entirety leaving no trace.
I didn’t even get his stuff back. People who found their car wreck had made off with his rings (including our wedding ring), his bag, and his phone. They had emptied his wallet and returned the shell to us along with another phone that looked completely crushed. Even from the hospital we didn’t even get the clothes that he was wearing. Finally all I got were his shoes in a plastic bag. It was just stuff – immaterial – still it was his! Some last token to hold on to.
I took what I got and kept it in my bag automatically. I think exhaustion was taking over as I went for the ritual bath after the cremation. Still I wondered what I was trying to wash off, because the smell of death remains no matter how hard you scrub. And as hot water mingled with hot tears, I wondered if I should go and meet him. A few handfuls of sleeping pills should be enough!
When someone is gone from our lives, we don’t cry for them but for ourselves. What’s going to happen to us? How are we going to deal with the loss? The dead do not bother…
13th August – 21st August 2015
The nights were sleepless. In the day I didn’t feel like he was gone. I could see him everywhere. It was just like he was out on one of those trips and will walk in laughing any time (A month later, I still don’t feel him gone). But when I closed my eyes, I saw him in the cold storage. So staying awake was better.
We were in the mourning period – 13 days filled with ceremonies that are supposed to deliver peace to the departed soul and guide them on the way to heaven. I think it’s more to give peace to the living. Get us busy so that we think about the ritual than the person who is gone!
I was never a believer of rituals, nor am I now. So for me, people were the strength to carry me through. No one left me alone for a minute – they still don’t. The most valuable thing he left me was friends. They poured in from all corners, and they were as distraught at his going as I was.
Yet when we sat together, we remembered the good times, the pranks he would play, the sheer audacity of some of the things he did, and we laughed our hearts out. Yes, we laughed. It was so much better than crying. Because really, we don’t cry for the person who’s gone, we cry for ourselves, and the hole they’ve left in our lives. We cry because we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. So I chose to laugh when I could, and talk about the good times.
But tears have a way of finding their way out. What triggers it, I don’t yet know.
Sometimes words said long ago ring true at the most unexpected of times. It’s past, peeking though the folds of a sheet of paper.
I found this in an old file today at his parents’ house along with a stack of cards and letters I had sent him.
My anchor is gone!
You are the sun that chases away my clouds,
The star that guides me through my uncertainties,
And the loving anchor in all my storms…
You are the strength to my weakness,
Belief to my doubts,
And the fulfilment of my most cherished dreams…
You are the comfort of my yesterdays,
Magic of my todays,
And the hope of my tomorrow
You are the joy of my heart,
The peace of my soul,
And the love of my life…
You are my love, my life.
This excerpt is published with permission from the publishers, Notion Press.
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