I wasn't ready to let you go . . .
Two days before my mother passed, the temperature in Delhi— my hometown—was 104 degrees. Not a leaf stirred and the aerial roots of the banyan trees in our backyard hung down limply, and languidly, immobile. The day my mother passed it was raining. A welcome healing rain that cooled the scorching, heat-baked earth. I saw poor children dancing in the street in joy, their upturned faces creased in smiles as their tongues mopped greedily at the raindrops. It was as if the heavens had opened their arms to welcome my mom into their embrace.
For ten days, my mom struggled for her life in the ICU—a sterile room with white walls, beeping machines, and a smell of Dettol antiseptic hanging in the air like the thick smog that blankets the congested streets of New Delhi in the wintertime.
My 83-year-old Dad is frail and walks with his shoulders pulled in, head down, and back hunched. Until my brothers and I arrived home from the U.S., he had to cope alone with paperwork and doctors and tubes down my mom’s throat.
Swatting flies while waiting, sitting on the one solitary bench outside the ICU, I prayed repeatedly, “Please God. Please God—let her live.” My eyes hot with unshed tears, I asked myself endless questions: “What if her pneumonia had been detected two weeks earlier? What if she’d been with us in the U. S. instead of being here in Delhi, without the comfort of her family? What could we have done differently?” A thousand questions and replies, a thousand regrets filled my soul.
For three hope-filled days, my mom appeared to recover. She smiled at us in recognition, her expression wistful as if to say, “This must be pretty bad if my whole family traveled more than 9,000 miles to get here.” She asked my brother if we’d eaten something—the perennial worry of an Indian mother. For three days, I held her hand and told her over and over again, “Mummy, I love you to the moon and back. You know that, right?” I demanded of her. She nodded back at me. That was the sign I desperately needed. A tremendous sense of relief and peace washed over me. She was going to be okay.
On April 18, 2019, my mother breathed her last. I wanted to shout at the doctors to do something, but she was already gone, her head tilted, her mouth open with her tongue sticking out a little. She didn’t look like my beautiful, graceful, stylish, warm and kind mother anymore.
There are no words to describe what you feel when you kiss your mother a final good-bye. I’ve tried to find solace in the fact that she was at peace—having seen her three children together just before her end—and ready to die. I have reminded myself that God didn’t prolong her suffering. However, I’m finding that there is something about losing a mother that is permanent and inexpressible. I keep on swallowing, choking back sobs when flashbacks of happier memories appear like shooting stars. It’s a grief that is not something you complete to get to the other side, but, rather something you endure—like a wound that never heals.
Mummy, I wasn’t ready for you to leave
Will the tears ever dry?
How just like that, life changed forever;
I loved you your whole life, I will miss you the rest of mine.