I lost a good friend a few weeks back. [On a side note why is it that tragedies inspire me to write posts]. I woke up today morning to the usual traditions of Mother’s day; the breakfast in bed, the beautiful flowers and handmade cards and all my mind could think is the small boy who woke up today with no one to spread his love with. His mom was gone and that would be a truth he would have to live with the rest of his life. Undoubtedly there are two events that have shaped me to the person I am: having a mother, and being a mother. I cannot imagine the heartbreak I would feel at losing the prerogative to belong in either category.
I am certain being a woman is more than that but there is nothing more that defines me right now. My job, my relationship with my friends, my interaction with the world all fades out when compared to motherhood. Because to me, being able to enclose myself in this world between the my mom and my kids has made me who I am, who taught me to love and to fear in ways I never knew possible… that is the greatest gift of all.
I call my mother everyday, not because I have to but because I love to. We talk some days when I am in a hurry to get somewhere or days when we talk for long about life in general or when she gives me the elusive recipe for the perfect dish or when we argue over silly topics. But a major reason is because now being a mother myself makes me so damn grateful to have a mother that I want to remind myself she’s still there… still breathing… still warmly answering the phone in her unmistakably familiar voice. I call her to remind myself that there is still someone on this planet who believes that I am awesome and beautiful and practically perfect in every way. I call her to remind myself that someone on this earth loves me in the same unconditional way that I love my sons… sometimes apprehensively, at other times honestly, sometimes with a rush of angst and horror and most often with admiration and heart wrenching warmth. A rush that only comes with the realization that you love something tangible with an intangible sense of guilt and awareness that at any moment they could be stripped away from you.
Because one of the biggest anxiety the morning news tends to give me, is that these relationships can be so fleeting. In a flash of an eye for no apparent reason can a mom suddenly be childless, or a child motherless and I cannot think of anything more heart wrenching than that.
So this morning after my kids were done with the whole Mother’s day celebrations, I held them close, felt their warm breath and warmer hugs; and then I called my mom. Silently thanking the powers that be for the familiar moments of my life, the hopeful years and years of time where she will still answer the phone with her smiling voice, ready to hear what I have to say and to remind me that I am so lucky to be able to call myself two very special things:
Mothered and a Mother.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms out there.
The northern part of my home country is facing a really tragic time. A cloud burst left hundreds dead and thousands without homes or means of livelihood. Evacuations, rescues, recoveries are still underway and its going to be some years before things return to normal. Think Hurricane Sandy with ten times the flooding in hard to reach high mountains. I didn’t watch much of the news coverage of what happened neither online or on the television. I know about it, but I just can’t make myself watch. And when I hear about such tragedies be it Aurora, Colorado, Sandy Hook or The Oklahoma tornado, I make a similar decision.
Initially I thought my not watching is disrespectful to the grieving victims and communities. Maybe I should force myself to spend at least an hour letting the unrelenting TV coverage seep into my brain like a cancer of fear, invading my body and mind and leaving me shattered and grieving for someone’s loss. But then I let it go. I don’t pretend it didn’t happen or that it can’t happen to anyone at any time. I don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt or ache or terrify me. I just have to let it go.
There is a reason to this. When I was a kid, I was terrified of dying. I just could not accept the truth that everyone dies one day, that everything ends. This thought of infinity made my stomach ill and I couldn’t process it. So I pretended it wasn’t true and that it didn’t happen. No one close me to me died and I could hang on to my illogical but untrue assumption. And then, at a really grown up age a year after my marriage actually, it happened; I lost my maternal grandfather. It was my first real brush with death. And I learned the truth. Everyone dies.
But the true apprehension I think in life, the true panic of the world we live in isn’t that we die. It is not that we cease to exist or return to dust. The true and heart-wrenching sadness is that it happens to the people we love. And the grief of the people left behind.
One benefit of having a life threatening disease is that I’m no longer afraid of dying. I haven’t been for quite some time. I don’t worry about what comes next or who comes next or why it all has to happen. I embrace my life for what it is: transient and temporary, passing quicker than I can even fathom. But death is still something I fear, just not the dying. I fear death not because it happens to me, but because it happens to everyone. Even my parents. Even my siblings. Even my child. Everyone I love and hold dear. And therein lies the fear.
So when tragedies happen, like in Uttarakhand or Oklahoma or Sandy Hook, they sound the gong of death in my head that rings a pulsating reminder that it happens everyday to someone. Everyday, a mother wakes up with empty arms. A child suddenly is an orphan. A parent accidentally unlocks the back door of their car to remove a child who isn’t there, not any longer. Every minute a heart breaks and aches and longs for a person who is just no longer there.
I don’t have to watch it to remember it. I don’t have to sit and mourn for these people to remember their truth. Instead, I choose to honor their truth by embracing my own: by loving the children that are still mine to love, by calling the parents who are still mine to call, by joking with the brothers and sisters and friends who are still a voice on the other end of the phone. Because the end of life is comes for us all, without warning, without sense, without any rhyme or reason. It’s unavoidable. It’s without control or logic and it arrives without preparation and often without fanfare. It is just there unannounced and unwarranted. The period at the end of life’s sentence.
And if tomorrow, death comes for me or more painfully for those I love, I don’t want today to pass without indulging in the beaming happiness that is my life now… my life before death. So I keep the television off, the browser carefully avoiding tragedies. I keep the news from my mind. Not because it’s not important or devastating, but because it is: Death is too important to ignore.
But you know what? So is life.
And I choose life while it’s still my choice to make.