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What My Baba’s Death Taught Me About Life

Losing my dad has made me realize that when someone you love dies, you don’t just have to say goodbye to them at the time they pass.

Losing my dad has made me realize that when someone you love dies, you don’t just have to say goodbye to them at the time they pass.

The day my Baba took his last breath, I lost my voice.

I knew he was dying, but I didn’t realize it would be his goodbye. I never talk about my Baba’s death. Whenever I do, I go numb. I lost him when life was going perfectly.

June 7, 2019. It was their 33rd marriage anniversary. I had just scored my dream job 15 days ago, my sister was 7 months pregnant and everything was smooth. But suddenly, this happened.

I was lost, I was devastated, for a long time. I simply could not accept his death. How could this happen? We were so happy, everything was so perfect till yesterday. He couldn’t have left us behind like this. I remember that day at the hospital I told my mother that I’d like to perform the last rites of my Baba. My relatives were supportive, and told me they would not oppose it.

For the first time in my life, I went to the shamshaan ghat – to cremate my father. I did everything that a son would do in our culture. I categorically told Panditji that he must not hesitate in making me do the rites properly. That day I realized Baba wasn’t there anymore to make up excuses for me or help and support me in whatever way possible. He was gone and I found myself responsible in this big bad world overnight.

I had to take care of my mother.

We all cope with death differently

My way of coping was to be by myself and just contemplate on what death was and how I would live my life without a father, going forward.

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I still get flashes of him every time I hear someone say “Dada Bhalo!” just the way Baba used to greet people in passing. And when I hear a song that he used to sing, I suddenly realize that the only way I will ever hear his beautiful voice again is in my dreams. Sometimes I’m reminded of the happy, healthy times, but more often than not, I get dreams of the darker days that make me realize that I’m still grieving.

However, this is my reality today. And that’s life. Losing my Baba to death has taught me many lessons. Recently, one of my friends lost his father, and I reached out to share my condolences, which of course consisted of  “I’m so sorry for your loss. You‘re in my thoughts. Let me know if you need anything.” But then I thought about what I would’ve wanted to hear when my Baba died and followed up with, “Nobody talks about how much this hurts. We are supposed to be okay and strong enough to handle this because we are adults, but you don’t have to be. This sucks and hurts like hell. I know because it happened to me.”

I’ve come to realize that when someone you love dies, you don’t just have to say goodbye to them at the time they pass. Moreover, you can think about them at every crossroad too. I’ve discovered that there are uncounted firsts and tough moments to get through. Not just the obvious ones like holidays and big events, but many others that are equally if not increasingly challenging to struggle through under the heavy wrap of grief.

A connection beyond words

My Baba was my soulmate. I’m the youngest one and we had a connection that no words can explain. He knew what was inside my head just by looking at me. I remember him as he always joked about the good and bad things in life.

When he passed away, I felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest. I’d never be able to hug him again, or hear his voice or see him coming through the door after a long day, again. I’d never hug his legs again, blush when he asks who my boyfriend was or how many boyfriends I have now or make me give him a hundred kisses before leaving home.

And then there are the stinging moments, those that rub salt on my wounds. The times when I am watching TV and the story line is one in which a character is dying. When I close my eyes to go to sleep at night and all I can picture is the image of my Baba’s frailty at the end. The times when I’m searching for a contact on my phone or on my email and his name automatically pops up. That happens when I typed the number 10. These are the times I keep forgetting to expect. The ones that leave me with a heart-thumping feeling that I’m not sure will ever go away.

Probably the most frequent occurring moments for me since Baba left us have been ‘The Empty Chair’ moments. The ones by which I am startled again by his absence. I think about him many times, everyday, and fall asleep with tears on my pillow almost every night. I talk to him in the car pretty often. That part of missing him has become a part of my routine. But family vacations and holiday gatherings are extremely difficult without him. I keep thinking about how he would’ve loved the things that we do today. The ones that he isn’t here to do – going to the beach, playing with kids, listening to conversations and laugh…all of those moments of togetherness that excite me, except for the fact that he’s not a part of those memories.

What I learned from my father’s death is that life has a way of teaching you exactly what it is that you need to learn. Death is the ultimate teacher. It will allow you to experience life very differently.

Image credit: A still from Piku

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