Right off the bat, I’m going to say, the grief never really stops and my worst fear is that it’s not going to stop no matter how old I get. There are days I forget about it but I internally beat myself up for it the following day. February 19th, the day of my dad’s death is embedded in my brain as the day everything went blank. Four years have passed, and I still feel the same amount of blankness when that day comes.
The day my mother received his test results after being admitted in the hospital for “severe stomach ache”, I overheard her telling her in-laws about it and all of them started weeping. She only told me after a couple of days. I still wish I hadn’t eavesdropped because I would've at least had a couple more days of peaceful sanity before my whole world flipped upside down. And then began a year of hair abandoning his body and a final month of skin turned yellow. Jaundice due to cancer. Not just one disease, but two, killed my father. How do I cope with life after seeing that?
Chemotherapy cost my parents’ life savings. I still had to go to college. I was in class, when I got a phone call from my mom from the hospital. She told me to drive up as soon as possible and didn’t tell me why. An hour long. An hour long drive to go and see my mom and aunts and grandparents sobbing. An hour long drive to witness my dad, so still, on his hospital bed. The tears didn’t come out for three seconds and I still feel guilty about that. It’s not that I wasn’t sad. Even though we knew this was coming, I was in complete shock. There were about a million things running in my brain during those three seconds – “he looked like he was getting better just the previous day, in fact, he was glowing!”, “is he really dead?”, “is he really not going to be able to hear the things I couldn’t say to him before?”, “Is this the last time I’m going to see him before he gets buried into the ground?”, “I’m too young for this”, “Why is this happening right now?”, “Why?”, “Why?”, “Why?” He died at 12:22PM in a private hospital room numbered 1222. Did we have to notice that coincidence when we admitted him a month before that?
photo: aryan nair
It never actually hit me until I saw him being buried. A month later, I felt like it was time I only focused on myself. I broke up with my then boyfriend. I made video montages of my dad to play during his one-month rituals. I even wrote a poem called 'Begetter':
"A husband, a son, a father
A friend, a cousin, a brother
He who taught me about family
He who loved me like no other
I refuse to believe that he has departed
I refuse to believe that he is gone
His presence is within the souls who cared for him
His wraith is within the grounds this credence was built on
Although relieved he is from this harsh portrayal of a world
I know he is watching as I write this poem."
The thing I always tell people is that this will happen to everybody. It happened very early for my brother and I which is why it was is so hard to process and we are stuck with a lot more years of grief than usual. Believe it or not, I have received a lot of indirect "don't be a crybaby" comments from people around me over these past few years and I'm sure I'm not the only one who knows what that feels like. I survived minor panic attacks while being crawled up in bathrooms during house parties, feelings of numbness and uncontrollable tears and all it takes is just one tiny trigger point that will take me back to February 19th. The grief doesn't stop. And I don't think I'm okay with that. He doesn't deserve watching his children constantly grieving and being held back to do the things we want to do.
Love your parents. Cook with them, read with them, sing and dance with them. Love them when they're around, not just when they're not.