2nd January 2016 was her last good day. And this is what potentially losing a loved one feels like.
Good days have become scarce. Your heart aches to see her hale and hearty as she always was, and each day that passes seems to challenge the idea of ever seeing her like that again. As you desperately attempt to cling on to memories of her “good days”, your heart aches at the subconscious insinuation that the present version of her isn’t her. You berate yourself because its not only the good memories that matter – it is in our darkest moments that our qualities are amplified, and while you would never want to relive the sight of her dark moments, it is also in these moments that you have witnessed strength like no other.
The hospital air reeks of antiseptic and disinfectants. A mass of people floods the entire first floor – like some sort of fish market where people strain their ears to hear each other. It strikes you just how dichotomous hospitals are; grief and celebration float around in wild disarray. Somewhere in the midst of this people-watching episode is a woman crying her heart out while her family members console her, and before you know it, your vision falls on your mother and her face crumbles. You become that family. All of a sudden the reality of the situation weighs down on you and you’re slapped out of that impassive nonchalance you were distracting yourself with. This could be the last day.
Before entering her room, you take a deep breath and put on the biggest smile and most cheerful voice you can muster; you’re a pro at this by now. It takes tremendous fortitude to keep a steady voice and dry eyes, but no force can dull that ache in your chest. You are greeted by the continuous, almost persistent, beeping of the machines and drips of the IV, giving her the thousands of medicines weakening her tiny body gradually. On her good days you would talk – about her return home and all the restaurants you’d visit together. On the bad days she lies motionless and taciturn, save for the occasional lament, for which you find yourself painfully lacking a reply. She’s sick of fighting a losing war, and you’ve run out of reassurances that you believe in. She senses the silent doubt in your eyes and perfunctory replies but says nothing. It is ironically the beeping of the machines that assures you that she’s still here.
The doctors have become your gods; your gallant saviors in these perilous times. Every word they utter is like the holy scripture, and you hang on to them like a lifeline because that’s exactly what they are. The conviction and certitude with which they speak is an extreme consolation; in such situations all you need is someone to tell you that she’s going to be fine, because the uncertainty is what drives you insane.
This isn’t just a battle anymore, it’s a war with an inexorable adversary, and while she may win this battle, you know she’s going to lose the war. Every sign of recovery brings with it the acute reminder of the impending darkness. Morbid as it may be, this is something you know you have to accept, but are yet to come to terms with. How could you? The brevity of human life is as such – something everyone is aware of, but reluctant to acknowledge.
So keep the good memories close to your heart. They say pictures speak a thousand words, but pictures are merely memories encapsulated in pixels. It is exactly that intangibility of memories that makes them so cherished and intimate – hold on to them and remind yourself that you were, and are, loved. You may not feel it now but you are strong, because you know that life goes on, and you have to move with it – and that, my friend, is courage in its unadulterated glory.
There are so many moments of your life you want to spend with her but you know that’s being painfully naive. Even in death it’s funny how you think of yourself first, but know that that’s okay. There is an inherent selfishness embedded in humans, because you grieve for your own loss – you grieve for the times in the past when she used to give you the best hugs ever and spoil you immensely; you grieve for the warmth she used to provide you by just being there; you grieve for the moments in future because you will never get to do and feel all those things again. You grieve because you love, and love is entirely personal. It hurts so much that you want to stay in the darkness forever, but perhaps if you step out of the dark for a while, you might remember what it was like to walk in the light. You will eat at her favourite restaurants and watch her favourite TV shows, and you will recall the love and light she brought into your life. Tomorrow will come and the ache in your chest still be there; it will gradually diminish but never completely cease, and that’s okay.
We do not live despite the adversities thrown our way; we live in spite of.