I returned from my uncle’s house a few hours ago, after he was taken away in a hearse. I was calm all throughout the whole process, but after coming home, the moment I stepped into the shower, I completely lost it.
The image of his body lying on the bed surrounded by people, is still floating in front of my eyes. He was wearing his typical half-sleeved kurta and pajamas and there was just one short blanket covering his feet. Like a robot, Didi and I entered the room and touched his feet, I could see my sister’s eyes welling up with tears, but I just kept staring at my uncle. Everyone around were talking in hushed tones, as if he was sleeping, but he was so still. So extremely still.
When I had seen my grandmother’s body, before she was taken away, she was covered up snugly with a lot of blankets. There were already garlands of flowers on her. Maybe that is why her stillness wasn’t so noticeable. But uncle was so bare, and so still. I probably haven’t even seen a statue as still as him. He wasn’t breathing, his chest wasn’t heaving. He was just lying still and he wasn’t breathing. He seemed a little too still. Suddenly, a harsh voice inside me seemed to speak up, ‘Of course, he’s not breathing. He’s dead.’
My throat threatened to close up and I could feel my ears and cheeks getting warm. So I pushed past my sister, and made my way to the balcony. Thankfully, it was cool and breezy outside and it helped me calm down. I felt my face and ears cooling down as my sister came and stood beside me. Neither of us said anything, we just kept staring at the cemetery ahead, all the beautiful trees and all the beautiful flowers.
With my grandmother, it was a completely different story. All the pain that she had to endure before she passed away had brought about a huge change in all of us. Even till the time Emon was talking to me, I could contain myself, and I liked talking to him even after our breakup. He was genuinely concerned about my grandmother, the way he used to enquire about her, or so I thought. He kept reminding me that he was my best friend, the breakup doesn’t matter, and he is always there for me. But he wasn’t. And that’s when my real torture began. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Everything all around me seemed to breaking down on me, and all the rubble and bricks and stones seemed to be collecting in my heart.
I was only seeing my grandmother suffering every day. Every single day. For a year and a few months. Whether it was a weekday, weekend, holiday, school day, nothing mattered. It was the same every day, and also worse. I lost track of the number of times she had to be admitted in a hospital. I lost track of the number of times I got a cold from crying too hard and for too long and wailing to someone out there to just stop this madness. It literally hurt. My chest used to hurt so bad after I stopped crying. I didn’t know whom to talk to, I didn’t know whom to tell all this, so I just kept talking to myself. I couldn’t stay at home, I didn’t want to go to school. Every moment I was alone, I would continuously keep babbling to myself to such an extent, it would make me think I’m crazy. I couldn’t take it.
I don’t want to go to any more hospitals. I can’t go to any more funerals of the people I knew so well and watch all my loved ones’ flushed faces and tears rolling down their cheeks. Two or three years back, I couldn’t even imagine any of them crying, except for in movies, because of some emotional scene. They are the adults; they are the ones we look up to. They are supposed to be toughest. They take care of us and look out for us. I could never imagine anything big enough that could ever shake them up. But now I know.
In these moments, the inescapability of this part of our lives light up in front of me – death. It is a fact, it is a truth. It is a truth we cannot escape. Because every time it comes across our lives, it leaves a devastating trail. When it comes across us, we do not have an option but to deal with the fact that that person is no longer a part of our lives anymore. Of course, he will live on forever in our hearts, but we won’t be able to touch that person, or hear his voice, or spend time with him. The gap that is haunting.
It is in this gap that we feel ourselves grow. We learn to adapt. We learn the many different ways we can distract ourselves and do things which make us feel better. We figure out ways of taking up all the responsibilities of that person and fulfilling them. We try to lead the same life that we used to before we lost our loved one, thinking that that’s what he would have wanted, had he been here with us. Thinking of our loved ones only, we try to become stronger.
I think this is what everyone has to do. And so do I.