Anything that you have, you can lose; anything you are attached to, you can be separated from; anything you love can be taken away from you.
Yet, if you have nothing to lose,
you have nothing
Richard Kalish, a deceased colleague of Kenneth Doka, quoted in his book – Grief is a journey.
Dr Doka is a preeminent expert on grief
Around ten years ago, my mother passed away in Delhi, India.
I asked my niece Divya, to write a few lines on how she remembered her grandmother, what lessons she learned from her, and what she has been doing for the past ten years.
The letter she wrote was one of the most touching legacies of my parents.
They say- Grandchildren are the future which you don’t see physically.
A LETTER FROM JASOLA
We used to sleep together in a room.
You would take my hands in your hand. After a while I would take my hand away . The last time we were together, before you were admitted to the hospital, I did not take my hand away . That was the last time. After you passed away I could not sleep in that room for a month.
I asked how the gap will fill .
To this an elder replied
The gaps don’t fill, they fade away
PALAM – EACH CORNER MANY MEMORIES
I don’t go for walks towards C block any more
My father’s sister told in a sad tone. She would go for prayers to Sai Mandir with my mother, every Thursday.
Later they would sit in the B Block park.
In his book- Grief is a journey- Dr Ken Doka writes
“ In losing your sibling, you experience many secondary losses beyond the loss of perhaps your longest lasting relationship.
Now there is no one to share those special memories or to check your perceptions. There is a change to the feel of holidays or family events. “
Sisters- Palam- 2001
In August 2015, I took my mother’s sister Abha Mausi ji, to Palam after a long time. That experience made me realize the words of Dr Doka in a very personal immediate way.
Of all the persons who miss my mother, it is probably her sisters who misses her the most.
She requested the tenants if she could come inside the house. She walked quietly through the rooms .
A silence came over us.
Then she said –
Each corner has so many memories.
In Nov 2016 the two sisters went to Palam again- and we spent a few hours seeing old family albums.
RITUALS – DOSAS LETTERS MUSEUMS
Your dosas are missing
from the family meals.
Divya- 10 years- Remembering Nani ji
Creating personal rituals add to the layers of remembrance and honouring the memories of loved ones.
Letter writing is a habit which I got from my grandfather in 1970 s.
Writing a letter to a loved one who has passed away, is a remembrance ritual I have practiced regularly for over six years. Every month I write a letter to a loved one.
Sometimes I write book summaries to my grandfather. At times I have written how Diwali is celebrated in Canada to my grandmother who was a devotee.
This exercise helps one see the big picture, wear the Cosmic Hat and watch generations and geographies in a unique way.
Sometimes I take a perplexing to them.
Divya ‘ s letter brought forward these elements in intimate personal ways.
She told of her transition from school to college, the challenges of shifting from staying at home in Delhi to staying in hostel in Mysore in Southern India.
GOOD BYES – NO GOING BACK
The last long discussion I had with my mother was on phone – ( 2011- June) I was in Tripoli Libya , having decided to stay back in the Civil War and NATO bombings.
When I had started working in Tripoli- 2003- Sep, I knew that one day I may have to see my mother if she is in need.
But no one could have foreseen that I would be stuck in a No Fly War Zone.
I sometimes discussed this with a friend, a colleague, another long term expatriate worker – who too stayed in Libya for long. Of all my friends, family I felt he was probably the one person who would understand the complexity and dilemma.
LEPTIS MAGNA – Libya – 2016- The birth place of Roman emperor Septimus Severus. Mediterranean walks . Staying in Libya in war of 2011 left me in a No Fly Zone.
The summary of many long hours of discussions is in this sentence
“ Now you are so far ahead in this journey that there is no going back “
Every transition involves a loss.
Every relocation or migration involves Goodbyes.
ROBERT’S UNCLE – A PRAYER IN COTTONERA – MALTA
“ Mummy is it so dangerous in Libya that people are praying for them “
Sahil- my younger son asked his
mother after he returned from school
where they were praying for Robert’s uncle who was in Libya.
Graydon Rock – Mississauga 2021- June
Not all the costs of war are seen or can be counted or measured.
As his mother tried to downplay, he admitted that he did not tell anyone in his school that his father too was in the war in Libya.
And while he did pray for Robert’s uncle, he also silently prayed for his father.
WALKS – HIMALAYAS TO BRUCE TRAIL ONTARIO
Riverwood Mississauga- Ontario 2017- October
I had told Divya to write about the ten years gone by to her grandmother.
Her mind’s eye went back to the times when Nani would be sitting in the living room, their trips to Mumbai, Vaishno Devi, Shimla.
Walks are part of the family tradition.
My parents inculcated the love of the written word in me, and the love of museums and art galleries.
If we had taken a walk together in Ontario, she would have loved the Art Galleries of Ontario
We remember and learn and grow on
Ten years down the line.
Remembering trips to Mandirs, puddings and some conversations
Writing a letter to a loved one who has passed away, is a remembrance ritual which was taken to a new level by Divya – the granddaughter as she wrote about so many intimate aspects in touching details.
Gaps don’t fill, but do they fade away?