Just three months have passed since you slipped away leaving Ashok and me behind; yet it feels like an eternity. I recall that summer evening vividly and with disbelief. Sitting at your bedside, holding your hand and watching as your breaths got weaker and further apart. Then with that last breath – a small sigh – you were gone from our midst. Your face turned ever so slightly and the rays of the evening sun streamed through the bedroom window gently lighting you in peaceful repose. No more pain. No more suffering. No more medication. In the lap of Mother Nature and the Almighty for eternity. We are left behind to bear your loss, mourn your passing. We struggle to live on and cope without you, without your strength, your grace, your spirit, and your love to hold us all together.
These three months have been surreal. I’m sure I will wake up from a dream any minute now to a sound you’ve made, and check if it’s time for your morphine, monitor the oxygen flow, give you a sip of water, and adjust your pillows. But that’s the dream – that you are still here, with us a while longer, smiling through your pain and discomfort; a tower of strength, showering us with your love, the gentle touch of your hand in mine and peace in your heart.
The first few weeks were a blur. I recall our neighbors stopping by with food, sympathy and offers to help. Bhaiyya, bless him, stepped in and took care of the funeral arrangements. All our friends said kind words. Ashok and I moved around in a daze, unable to fully comprehend that you were no longer with us. Then there were arrangements to make, questions to answer, calls to banks and credit card companies and insurance companies, forms to be filled out. I threw myself into these distractions.
Eventually everyone returned to their own lives. The new school year started and Ashok is back in class – eighth grade now – and seemingly doing well. He has signed up for track and field and goes for practice a few evenings a week. I am back at work. We are getting through our daily routines. He and I watch a ball game together on weekends and I make dinner for us most nights. We go for walks once in a while and run errands together. We don’t talk much about what happened; there is a lot that is left unsaid. Remember our picnics in the backyard? He and I tried that last weekend but it just wasn’t the same.
The hospice folks have been great. The social worker stops by or calls to make sure Ashok and I are doing okay. The other day she recommended that we try joining a support group for families or sign up for grief counseling. I don’t want to sit and listen to a bunch of people talking about people they’ve lost or about their difficulties coping. I’m not sure I can handle that.
All told I think I’m doing okay and handling myself the best I can. However, little things – random thoughts, a place, a phrase overheard, or the sight of something – suddenly trigger uncontrollable grief. Just one toothbrush by the bathroom sink. Your blue dress hanging in the closet. That tree in the park that you liked so much. News of some new breakthrough in cancer research. I never know when it’s going to happen and when it does, I don’t know why. It just does. There are days when I hear myself talking out loud to you as though you are in the next room, about to walk in at any instant. All your things are just where you left them. I don’t even want to think about what I’m supposed to do with them.
I cannot believe you’ve left us. I become numb thinking about it. I keep going back to that day in February when Dr. Jeffries told us that continuing treatment was no longer a practical option. Sometimes I feel that they gave up on us too soon. Couldn’t they have tried another approach? Perhaps there was a clinic somewhere else that could recommend a treatment that would work? Agreeing to turn to hospice care felt like admitting that we were at the end of the road. Should we have looked at other options? It makes me angry sometimes. I feel like throwing things. And then I think of what you said to me: “I want to spend my last days in the comfort of my home, with the two of you, in peace.”
Asha, you give me the strength every day to move on. I think about our lives together and how we managed to get through all of this, and I’m hopeful. Some days are better and some days are worse. I wake up early in the morning sometimes and lie in bed wondering how I’ll get through the day. Why did you have to go? How will life be for Ashok and me? Will I be able to do the right thing by him? Be there for him? Will he know that he can come to me for help? Then I always ask myself what you would say and I have my answer.
You are with me all the time. In my heart. Perched on my shoulder guiding me at every step, giving me courage to get through the day. I am so thankful for you, for Ashok, and for our time together. My sweet Asha. My Sweet Love. I miss you terribly.
This remembrance is dedicated to all those who are left behind grieving for their loved ones.
Mukund Acharya spent 40 years on three continents as a professor, scientist, manager and technologist in aerospace. He currently promotes healthy aging and wellness, advocates for patients and their families, and is exploring the use of short stories, photopoetry, and blogs to spread the message on the importance of living substantive, impactful, fulfilling and contented lives while giving back to the community.