In the second story for our Lessons From Ma writing theme, Vinaya talks about learning to let go of her beloved mother.
Vinaya, in her own words: I am an IT Professional and a mother of an over active toddler. The hectic pace of work and family commitments leaves very little time for leisure. Writing is an old passion and I make most of the little time I get to lose myself in writing.
“I know you.” My mother says. I had looked away, unable to see more pain, even the minor pain of a needle prick being inflicted on her tormented body. In the few seconds that I have looked away and the lab technician was focusing on finding a vein from which to draw blood she has managed to move the oxygen mask aside.
He looks at my mother’s name on the patient chart. He asks me if my mother was a Professor at a college, I say yes. He looks at my mother and smiles, “You were the examiner for my final year exam. I had got your college as my exam centre.” He tells me how my mother had found a chit under his desk, the other examiner had wanted to send him out for copying but my mother had examined the chit and compared the handwriting and found the real culprit, a boy two benches behind.
“I am sorry I did not recognize her,” he says to me outside the ICU. He adds, “She was so dynamic I can’t believe this.” He stops, unable to hide his distress. I tell him the history of my mother’s illness.
“How can God be so unfair? She took a stand for justice,” he states. My mother was always fair, to me and my sister, strict but fair. But this heartfelt affirmation from a total stranger still makes me tear up.
My mother has been in the ICU for a week now; engulfed in IV lines and monitors keeping tab on her heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. When she was brought to the hospital the doctor’s had said she may not see the next morning. But as in her previous illnesses, she has proven the doctor’s wrong. I am once again hopeful of a recovery, rooting for her to fight back, prove them wrong.
“Other patients scream, but your mother never even complains,” the ayaama says to me after helping the nurses dress my mother’s massive wounds. I had seen the nurse’s hand disappear almost to his wrist as he swabbed the wounds on my mother’s back, curved scissor and all. In her condition local anaesthesia is out of question, only the flimsy barrier painkillers trickling in her body stand between her and pain.
“Everyone is saying God shouldn’t test her anymore, that he should take her away. I don’t know, what do you think?” my father says his tears barely in check. My feelings are as confused as his: not wanting to let go, yet horrified by her suffering. But even amidst her pain and the indignities being heaped on her my mother is dignified. Saying Namaste to the visitors with the IV’s trailing from her hands, ensuring that no inappropriate part of her naked body is exposed outside the thin cotton sheet covering her. I sit with her all day, she talks when she has the strength and listens with a faint smile when she can’t. The waiting room is always packed with our family members and constant stream of visitors; students and colleagues, our old milkman, neighbours, shopkeepers – even rickshaw drivers. My mother recognizes everyone, though her body is failing, her mind is incisive as ever.
Everyone tells me about her genuine concern, her sense of fair play, her command of her subject, her empathy and encouraging nature.
When my mother stopped talking I knew I must let go.
Though her loss sometimes envelopes me in the darkness of grief the lessons she has taught me in life and death are the beacons that guide me back.
*Photo credit: rbertieg (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Congrats Vinaya! You win a copy of Chicken Soup For The Indian Mother’s Soul and Bringing Up Vasu from Westland Books.
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