It was 24th of February, three years back. I got a call early in the morning from my mother that she is going to see a doctor for her persistent stomach pain. She had mentioned this pain to me earlier but would also tell me the possible reasons - must be some indigestion because of something that she ate the previous night or because of her being sedentary the whole day and not having gone for a walk. In the same breath she would stress upon the fact that currently she was feeling alright and nothing to worry about. I think this continued for a few months, but that day, the phone call did ring some strange bells in my mind - she was going to hospital willingly and was calling up to inform me, this itself was pretty strange. After a brief thought, I just pushed it like how I treat many other worrying things and then the normal chores do the rest. A phone call again jolted me out of my stupor of being on autopilot mode of time. This time it was my brother who wanted me to come over as he had some disturbing news to share with me.
I was on road heading towards their home - my home of my early life, a home which came into being by sheer hard work and foresightedness of my parents, a home whose bricks still remember the sacrifices of its creators, a home which saw us growing up, a home which may still have some old memory sitting silently in some nook or corner, a home which wept to see a bier entering its premises to carry the head of the family for his final journey, a home to which I bid goodbye post my marriage, a home which transformed from being ‘my home’ to my parental home in just a day, a home where mummy lived like a saint with her extremely simplified routine and with ever increasing bounty of blessings for whoever came in her contact.
In those ten-fifteen minutes of the drive, almost the whole of my early two decades of life flashed through my eyes. The news that awaited me there almost sucked the life out of me. She had been diagnosed with advanced stage of ovarian cancer while the confirmatory tests were to be performed in the coming week. I was at the mercy of a potpourri of emotions that moment on - of fear, of hope against hope, of darkness staring hard at me from very close quarters, of loneliness, of extreme hopelessness and much more. While a thousand things were going on in my mind, I remember mummy was busy narrating a short mythological story which she had read recently and which she had found very appealing. She always had something new to share - in the form of some sayings, anecdotes or short stories and she was in the habit of constantly replenishing her reservoir by reading more.
The initial tests led to the dreaded confirmation that the cancer had already metastasized. What followed was a month long jerky and emotional roller-coaster ride for all of us - in and out of hospitals, medical reports, desperate attempts to hold onto the fleeting moments of togetherness, waiting outside the ICUs to catch a glimpse of her, helplessness and dejection.
Every moment of that month is etched in my mind like it happened just yesterday. But it seems like ages since I last saw her on that hospital bed breathing her last. It was 31st of March three years back when she finally left us. She often used to mention how she did not want to carry forward any dues from this birth, and she was satisfied that she could do that - the way she wanted to. Even the last month of illness was a testimony to that - she met all those with whom she had some strings attached and bade them goodbye. It still feels like scripted last month that she planned with God’s consent.
A life ended that day but left us with a lifetime of inspiration. Despite all her physical ailments and trying times that she faced all through her life, she always greeted everyone with a smile dancing on her face. Even now I just have to close my eyes to see that image and her smiling face has the power to pull me out of any difficult situation. I often wonder how and from where did she derive that strength. It must be her unflinching faith in the supreme power.
She always wished for the elusive state of reaching beyond the cycle of births and deaths. I very clearly remember her last wish which she expressed holding my hand - 'to be some creature in the almighty’s garden’.
I know you are there…
Mummy, remembering you today and always with love and deep reverence. I feel extremely blessed to be your daughter.