Thursday, July 23, 2009

Turning over a new leaf - Part 1

Death.Birth. Rebirth. A New Beginning.

They all happened. Right here. In my life.

I have written of
my mother in this blog. As much as that post was a celebration of the amazing person she was, it also spoke of a sense of void that has been left behind in my life with her passing.
Only people close to me know the cause. Or rather I choose not to talk about it to everyone who wants to know "what happened" due to reasons, some obvious and some not so much.
Some years ago, when my husband G and I were on the brink of starting our wedded life together, I'd sometimes open up to him about how my life changed forever after she was diagnosed with a Stage 4 case of the kidney. He, who had never met Amma, would patiently listen to my heart wrenching account of her suffering and offer that much needed shoulder of support ,all the while sympathizing but never truly perceiving the magnitude of impact on the entire family when a member, more so, the mother falls prey to this deadly monster. I was thankful enough I'd found my sounding board in him that I never cared or even wished that he be able to empathize.

Little did I know then that the monster would return. Yet again.

A couple of years after our wedding, when G and I were in the middle of our respective professional assignments in the US , we learnt about his mother being diagnosed with a Stage 3 malignancy of the stomach. When we returned to India immediately thereafter, the doctors assured us that all hope wasn't lost and there were realistic chances of a recovery.
Usually, just a malignancy diagnosis is enough to devastate you . I half-expected to see a totally bogged down person weakened both physically and mentally, but a surprise is what I was in for. She did look a little emaciated from the surgery but I'd never forget that smile lighting up that rather paled down face as soon as she saw her son and her daughter in law at the doorstep. The surgery and the diagnosis was probably all forgotten that one moment as she melted into her son's arms.
Later that day in the kitchen, as she poured coffee into cups, she said "Its your father in law I am worried about..I can totally handle this, but I am not sure how he's going to. I don't want to hassle anybody in my family". As she looked at me, I could see half a tear at the corner of her eye. Eyes of a beautiful middle aged woman that I'd seen teary only when she bade goodbye to us on our onward journey to America. Those tears weren't the "heavy" kind. They had a rather flimsy purpose, lament about someone you're going to miss for a year or two. You vented and you were done. You would even forget you were teary eyed a while ago.
But this tear was heavy...With fear. With uncertainty. With sadness. With guilt.
The last I saw it was in my own Amma's eye when she had to undergo a major brain surgery at a time when both her student daughters were in the middle of their grad level exams.
I had hardly lived with my mother in law to know her well. It was just about three months after our wedding that we traveled to America. But that day, I knew this. If there was anyone going to be her tower of strength through this entire ordeal, it was herself.

Dozens of chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions ensued thereafter. She amazed the docs themselves with her never-say-die attitude and resolve. She made the hair loss issue seem like a minor cosmetic change that she was going through, making no qualms about hiding it under a wig. She avoided discussions about the disease with anyone who brought it up even by accident. She was cooking, traveling, attending family functions, gardening..doing just about everything that had made her the energetic and enthusiastic person she was.

She so wanted to treat this whole episode as a nightmare that she will one day wake up from and heave a sigh of relief realising it was all just not real.
That never happened.

Our relationship though only went from strength to strength through the entire ordeal. We were talking more. We were sharing more. We were learning from each other more. We were being grateful for each other more. I am not sure if we would have bonded any better otherwise. I sometimes wish we hadn't.
One particular day, when most days had turned miserable, she lay there on the hospital bed looking at me rather wistfully as I massaged her feet. It was a time when she no longer had the strength to talk much or be mobile. Those days, my eyes had become weary of making contact with hers to avoid becoming teary . I felt a nudge on my elbow and I moved closer.
"Did you need something? A blanket? Something to drink, maybe?"

As she nodded, I felt her frail, almost shivering palm stroking my cheek. I managed a slight smile clutching her palm in return, but somehow they rolled down, the damn tears. And right there in that hospital ward, in absolutely no words at all, she conveyed to me something so clearly that words couldn't. I had become to her, the daughter she never had.

And then her battle was over. Cancer proved itself invincible yet again.

Another loss. To me, of a mother, yet again.

It has been well over a year and a half now. Her spirit lives on though. In the warm, wonderful home that she built for her family...

...And, in the smile of one certain person she never could meet. A newcomer.A debutante.

(To be continued...)


Anonymous said...

I leave your blog today with a tear in my eye. God bless!

sweta said...

words cannot express what i feel for you, for all the times we have shared and for all i know you...I know that you have yet grown up again...and I wish to you that you remain this young and grow not this way. God bless the souls of the angels who have given you a part of them....

Just a grail said...

So horribly sad, yet so beautifully written.

on9thcloud said...

Wow..beautifully written.Made me teary eyed.God bless your moms' soul.

Anonymous said...

What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch, we may not understand why she left this earth so soon, or why she left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we all begin to remember not just that she died, but that she lived, and that her life gave all of us memories too beautiful to forget.

soumya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
soumya said...

A truly touching post..

Naren said...

Smitha...This one is a touching story and very beautifully expressed. I can imagine the pain & misery...If not a tear on my eye..there is definitely a void created in my heart as I read thru this amazingly written blog.
The loved ones are always taken away soon, but as everyone says they are in a better place now..

Zenith said...

Hey Smitha,

Glad to see you back in blogging. Love to read your posts which stir emotions - Happiness, Love, Grief. I think this is a wonderful post and I know the pain as I lost my grandparents due to cancer.


Deeps said...

That was.., I don't have the words to say it. Both your moms' spirit lives on, in your heart and reaches us through your writing..

Welcome back btw :).

Sandhya said...

Smitha, That was a very touching and beautifully expressed writing.
The courage and attitude of this great women will live on in our memories.

Revs said...

:) My first time here and I see that you are back to blogging after a very long time.Glad to be here and even more for having a blessed person-you, who had the gift of having two lovely souls as mothers.Keep writing please :) And hearty congratulations :)

Fountain said...

So nice to see you back to blogging..
Beautiful post, oldie!I'm sure this would leave readers teary-eyed.

Smi said...

All- Thanks for all those kind words.

Hip Grandma said...

I lost my dad to cancer when i was in school.I prayed hard that as the bread winner, he should be spared and rather naively offered myself in his stead.Things don't happen that way but the trauma that the family faced and the pain and agony he went through are permanently etched in my mind and I always wish that a magic pill to cure all types of cancers be found. Since my father's death I've seen colleagues,friends and relatives victim of this dreaded disease that makes its presense known only when there is nothing to hope for. When I read your comment I must say i was not prepared for this. God bless you my child. Adoption or no adoption you can count on me to support - a mother and mother in law rolled in one.

Sujith said...

I saw a totally different Smitha after reading this blog - different from what I have seen when I was in the Actuate team.
Someone said - when you are born, you were crying and others around you were laughing. Live your life in such a way that when you die, you are the one smiling and others around you are crying.
I believe it was the case with both your mothers. May GOD bless their souls.