Celebrating Mother’s Day: One Last Time

A daughter celebrates Mother’s Day with a heavy heart, knowing that this is the last time she can do so.

A daughter celebrates Mother’s Day with a heavy heart, knowing that this is the last time she can do so.

By Madhu Arora

Ever “celebrated an occasion” knowing it was the last time you were doing so, for the rest of your life? Mother’s Day for me this year, was something like that.

My mother is dying. And even though I have a son, as a daughter to the most wonderful woman on earth, this was my last Mother’s Day.

Well-wishers often tell me to hope/pray for a miracle. But, I don’t believe in miracles. Or God. I do believe in the medical report which says that over the last two months, her cancer that was stable for the last 9 months, has gone from her liver to her spine and skull. I believe in stats that peg the life expectancy of a metastatic cancer patient anywhere between 18 months to 2.5 years.

And truth be told, I am scared of raising my hopes one more time. Over the last two years, every time we tried a new line of treatment, I hoped. Hard. But every time the disappointment was even harder. We have admitted defeat.

And finally, her condition today is such that it would be almost cruel to hope that her life gets extended. She is bedridden for the most part, permanently on Morphine because her pain is unbearable. She can barely eat and her systems are kind of shutting down. Just being able to breathe is not life. It just isn’t.

Never in a hundred years had I imagined that someday I would describe my mother like this. She was always so full of life, so vibrant, so strong, and so youthful. Damn life!

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Will my memories be enough?

As I stand on the sidelines, I feel this need of documenting, recording every day, every minute that I can, in the hope that those memories would somehow keep her alive for me. But, when she is gone, will these memories make me happy or make me miss her even more? How long, before I will be able to look at her pictures, her videos and not cry? How long will it take for me to see my father alone and not to notice my mother’s absence? What will happen to my father, how will he spend his twilight years?

I think about how in the last two years, I have been robbed of so much of what she was, even before she is gone. Things that represented “my mother”, her cooking, for instance. Throughout my school life, my lunch box was always the first one to be devoured. I distinctly remember this one occasion when I used my mom’s gobhi paranthas as a bribe to get a friend to do something for me. The head massages she gave my brother and me; just what we required after stressful days at work or school. These are just two examples; the list could go on and on.

I think of stuff that always have and always will remind me of her. My mom loves plants and greenery. A tree laden with flowers is one of her favourite sights in the world. The fragrance of raat ki raani her favorite smell. A simple gajra made of chameli flowers, her favourite ornament. She will always be the first thought that comes to my mind, whenever I chance upon any of these things.

I think of all that I should/could have learnt from her. For instance, how she valued family and believed in keeping it together; even at the cost of personal sacrifices. Or the courage and strength she demonstrated as she navigated a life full of challenging circumstances. She was pregnant with me when my dad fell from the roof of our house and fractured his spine. Doctors told mom, he may be paralyzed for life. Heavily pregnant, my mom took care of my dad and my elder brother, worked full time and kept the house running. Or how she led a life of simplicity, and believed in keeping one’s wants limited and one’s means economized. Or the value of inner beauty; I never found her preening in front of a mirror. Since I was a child, I have seen her own just one shade of lipstick in the name of makeup, a dark maroon. Or the value of acceptance, acceptance of what life throws at us and the perseverance to see us through. But I was unable to learn any of this from her; she is a far bigger and better person than me.

I need more time, time that she now refuses to give me

Why is that we always learn to value something when we are about to lose it? Not that I never loved my mother, we have been thick friends since I was a teenager. But I only truly began valuing the blessing she is to me and my family much too late. For most people, parents are like that I guess, they become a part of the household furniture; always right there. You wake up to them, to their mortality often through morbid routes like illnesses or death. And like I said, by that time it is already too late.

We had planned a surprise lunch for my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day. We decorated the house, cooked some of her favourite food, laughed and joked with each other, tried to make her feel as special as possible. But despite all the warnings and promises to each other that we won’t cry, every once in a while one of us would get overwhelmed, hide in a corner and do just that.

So I guess that’s how it is to celebrate an occasion knowing that it is the last time you are doing so, for the rest of your life.

*Photo credit: linda sellers (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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