Of Calvin, a dream, an old song, and a birthday…

Smartassbride shared this comic strip in a comment today. Thanks smartassbride, this strip reminded me of Tejaswee and me too

“We dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we are in each other’s dreams, we can be together…”

***

19th Jan is Tejaswee’s birthday, she would have been 20. I keep thinking of how we would have felt if we knew on her 19th birthday what the year had in store for us. I used to sing this old song to my kids, we sang it together a lot, mainly the first few lines and the chorus and then making up whatever seemed apt.

I have no idea how I am going to feel this Wednesday. This picture was taken on 19th Jan 2008, in Pune.

Tejaswee with the cat she brought home from a garbage dump in 2004, Sher Khan.

Sometimes ‘not remembering’ is less painful than remembering but I would rather remember and cry, than try to ‘not remember’ and smile.  But I hope to remember and still smile. And smiling is  made easier by messages like this one from Pallavi,

“I hope you will celebrate the day Tj was born, celebrate the happiness that your daughter gave you, and the incredibly close bond that you shared. she will not want you to cry. she will want you to celebrate ‘her’.”

I am sure we will do that, even if we do cry.

I wish I could believe…

I went through a strong phase and thought I had managed to will myself to continue to feel strong. Mornings began without the painful weight in the chest and I walked and ate with care and felt stronger and at times I wondered – despite her photographs all around, if Tejaswee was a dream. Because if she wasn’t a dream how could she just not be there anymore. Death is very difficult to understand. One minute she was the center of our existence, the next minute we felt like our heads were being banged against the sides of a box we were locked in.

And we are still breathing.

After mid-November I was able to visit a relative in a hospital, get a haircut and buy a lipstick, watch ‘Guzarish‘ – so although there was no happiness, it seemed one was getting stronger. It was a glimpse of what future was going to be like. This was much more than I had expected and I was grateful for every morning that began without the painful, unbearable heaviness.

And then on the 27th night, the heaviness began again.  No thoughts, no memories just the same terrible heaviness – without any warning. 28th was my husband’s birthday. We ordered breakfast when some close relatives visited and the morning passed. In the evening my sis in law suggested we visit them in the same complex, some other relatives would be there too, and if it becomes too much, she said, we could always go back home. But I took pictures. A cake was cut and the evening was not as difficult as I had feared.

But that was the end of the strong phase. There is no escaping grief. Writing about strongly felt issues helps. Reading helps. Brisk walking helps. Making plans helps. Not looking at any photographs that have not been seen for a while helped. Reading Beyond Tears: Living After Losing A Child‘ helped. Communicating and connecting helped tremendously too. But these didn’t stop the crushing heaviness from emerging again. I was wrong in thinking this positive phase had something to do with my trying so hard. The brief relief was just a part of the roller coaster ride that grief is. There were days  and even weeks of respite.  I had started hoping and even wondering if  maybe the human mind could only take this much pain and the comfort that numbness brings was inevitable.

They say, ‘The best healers in the world are God and Time.’ Time does seem to be helping. The pain today is not the same as on the 29th Aug, the day the shock started wearing off for me. A mother on ‘Compassionate Friends‘ was right when she said, ‘It does get better.’ I believe that, and would like to say the same to Gina who lost her 21 year old beautiful daughter Sarah on July 12th.

Someone I met for not more than an hour in Sikkim said mothers have great emotional strength and spoke of how Indira Gandhi handled her son’s death. I wanted to hear what he had to say, words help, so I did not argue that Alexander Onassis’s mother was a woman too. He spoke of how in Mahabharata, when Arjuna died and reached heaven, he ran and ran and ran to meet his 18 year old, brave son Abhimanyu. Finally he spotted him, but Abhimanyu did not respond with the same enthusiasm. He said we humans are entangled in this mamta, maya and moh but souls are free of it and so while we were grieving here, our daughter was free and at peace. The soul feels no pain.

 

I wish I could believe this. I wish I could believe that she still exists, and exists somewhere much better. And then I hope she is glad to be there, because  I can’t forget that all her life she said she wanted to live a long, long life.

Setting goals, making plans, making some bits of life predictable.

Anniversary reactions can be traumatic. The added stress of feeling unwell can make grief tougher to deal with. Exercise is known to help fight stress, but only if one wants to fight stress.

Yesterday morning I had another positive conversation with a dear blogging friend. She warned it’s easy to sink into self pity, and reminded me how unhelpful and useless that could be. Sometimes we just need gentle reminders and I am sure this is how Support Groups work. She insisted she is not ‘helping’ and the support is mutual.

What happens to those who do not find such connection and support? I wish we had Support Groups in India, or we can begin to create one. Please do get in touch if you know somebody who needs support in coping with grief.

The conversation was like counseling and by end of it I reminded myself that (Quoting Starry) “There are many choices in the journey of recovery from loss.

So,

1. I found this picture of a Rangoli my daughter made two years ago. I tried to feel grateful for the beautiful memories we created and the precious time we spent together…

2. My sister had told me about this very motivating site. Answer some questions related to your lifestyle, eating habits and medical history and know your ‘Real Age’, and pick a plan suited to you. Yesterday, finally, I took out my Sketchers and walked to this video – most suitable for someone who hasn’t been active for a while.

It’s the workout you won’t quit. In fact, walking has the highest stick-to-it rate of any exercise.

Click to try if you have been wishing to start exercising.

3. I gave up sugar in tea sometime back but yesterday, inspired by this site, I bought Green Tea, deciding to move from caffeine to anti oxidants.

I also switched to fruit and yogurt for breakfast.

4. I have been living one day at a time, unsure what each morning brings (self pity, more pain, hope, positive thoughts…). Now, with the plan below, with a goal set for Jan 8th 2011, a small part of each day will stay positive and predictable.

Give us 2 months, and we’ll add years to your life and life to your years. Do two little things each week, and step by step, week by week, you’ll look and feel younger, stronger, and more vibrant. Click on Week 1 below to get started.

Take a look.

“The pain will never go, but you will smile again.”

Since I want to remember my daughter’s life and not her death, I try not to think about the time she was in the ICU. I try and remind myself that the last nineteen and half years were the best years of our lives and such precious memories should make us smile not cry. I also fear that if remembering her causes pain, one day we may not want to remember her.

And then a relationship so beautiful should give us the strength to face what we can’t change.

Last Tuesday, a dear, elderly relative was in the ICU and I felt I would atleast be able to go to the hospital, if not visit him inside the ICU. Just then I got a call from a blogging friend – (for the first time ever) Sangeeta Khanna. She said she knew the moment she heard my voice that I was feeling positive. She sounded so glad, her relief and the fact that she cared  was overwhelming and strengthening.  She said, “I am so happy you are going now, it’s better to confront our fears. You will be fine. Go to the ICU too. You will be fine. I know.”

Reminded me of another friends who had said ‘Just pick it up IHM!”

I did not go inside the ICU but I know I can. I have been avoiding all triggers and reading positive books and it does help… but I am also learning that I can confront some triggers.

I told her, “This week has been easy. I slept well, and one day I  woke up without this terrible weight in my chest…  I blogged. I read. I plan to learn to knit. On easy days, I make plans for what I’d do and think when the pain is intense and everything seems hopelessbecause there is no way to know how difficult tomorrow might turn out to be...

Tomorrow!? …we can’t even tell how we’d feel in an hour.” Sangeeta understood. She knew.

The not knowing is frightening.

All these days I have been wishing I could see a sign, some indication that my daughter is still there somewhere. On the 24th morning I made a cup of tea and spilled some and I picked a duster, and was wiping it. It was a pleasant October morning, and pleasant mornings had been saddening, because everything good seemed to rub in how the world goes on… but this morning I noticed the lovely morning without pain.

And then I noticed, suddenly, that I was humming. I was humming the first song from sm’s video. And I wondered if a stronger sign was needed. I remembered a beautiful email from a mother who had lost her daughter, just after losing her husband to cancer. She had said, “One day you will hear yourself laugh, you will be startled. But know that even if this moment disappeared like it never happened, there will be many more of such moments. The pain will never go, but you will smile again.” And I am sure I will find myself humming on many more such mornings.

I will also smile and remember her like I did on Saturday evening, when I told a friend about how much Tejaswee could talk even as a baby.

Movies I think I should watch.

Here are two movies my son thinks we should watch.

1. Welcome to the Rileys

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo have spent years mourning the tragic loss of their 15-year old daughter. They cope in their own ways. He sleeps with a waitress, and she never leaves the house under any circumstance. But when Doug (Gandolfini) travels to New Orleans for a trade show and lands himself in the life of a very young, runaway girl named Mallory (Kristen Stewart) who spends time stripping and turning tricks to maintain her meager, dirty existence.

Doug takes Mallory under his wing. He helps her clean up her house, attempts to give her a direction in life, all while telling his wife that he just can’t come home. This prompts his wife to leave the house and come to New Orleans, where she and Doug spend time weaving themselves into Mallory’s life, finding only more trouble as they get more and more involved.” [Link]

2. Charlie St Cloud

‘Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is a young man overcome by grief at the death of his younger brother, who takes a job as caretaker of the cemetery in which his brother Sam is buried. Charlie has a special bond with Sam, he meets him every night to play catch and to talk. Then, a girl comes into Charlie’s life and he must choose between keeping a promise he made to Sam, or going after the girl he loves.’ [Link]


And Shy recommended this one.

3. Rabit Hole

“After the sudden death of their beloved child Becca (Nicole Kidman) and her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are neither dead, as they might sometimes wish to be, nor alive, at least as they once were. Eight months after 4-year-old Danny ran into the street and was killed by a teenage driver, they dwell in a limbo… To move on is a betrayal of Danny’s memory; to remain paralyzed by sadness is to count not one but three fatal victims to the tragedy…  it is an evocation of coping that is deeply, complexly, heartbreakingly human. —M.C.[Link]

From: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2020173,00.html#ixzz12aswTDEs

Edited to add:

Thank You Chinkurli,

4. The Son’s Room


(This one recommended by Sangitha.)

5. The Ordinary People

Robert Redford made his Oscar-winning directorial debut (based on the novel by Judith Guest). Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland lose the older of their two sons to a boating accident; the surviving teenage son blames himself for his brother’s death and has attempted suicide to end his pain. They live in a meticulously kept home in an affluent Chicago suburb, never allowing themselves to speak openly of the grief that threatens to tear them apart. The movie examines the complexity of repressed emotions that have festered under the pretense of coping…–Jeff Shannon [Link]


Watching movies about child loss and how the families cope is helpful, not depressing. It’s the same as reading books like ‘The Knitting Circle’ and ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’.

I watched Saaransh.

Although some readers felt this movie was depressing – and it was, but this movie also dealt with a what we are going through. Reading books & blogs and watching movies related to child loss help in understanding our grief, and in realising that it is normal to feel the way we do, and somehow that is comforting. The couple in this movie lost their son, five months ago in a mugging incident in New York.

At first I didn’t want to watch this movie.

The dry leaves blowing in the wind, the dimly lit rooms, the way the parents (Anupam Kher and Rohini Hattangady) wake up each morning,  the way they move, the emptiness of their lives all was very frightening.

The scene where the mother asks the father to buy a 60 watt bulb because the bulb in their bathroom had blown disturbed me. Why? Maybe because they had to worry about blown bulbs when they had lost their child?… maybe because that was all they seem to have left in life?

But I am glad I did watch ‘Saaransh‘.

The couple takes Sujata (Soni Razdan) as a paying guest in their son’s room. Sujata was seeing the son of a local politician and gets pregnant. The boy friend intends to marry her but is terrified of his father. With elections round the corner, the politician father wants the baby aborted. Rohini Hattangadi believes this baby is their son being reborn.

Most people describe the scene where the father battles with the Custom Officers for his son’s ashes as the best, but what I found most moving was when Anupam Kher unexpectedly finds something to live for. How he walked taller, straighter and faster after that.

And then the flowers that bloomed in the park.

If you haven’t yet seen this movie released in 1984, watch it now. Here’s sharing a scene I liked…

I also liked Anupam Kher realizing that his wife could be his partner. Was his partner.

It’s Real not Virtual : Love from Crafty Shines…


Crafty Shines couriered me a packet… she refused to tell me what it contained.

 

Turquoise Heart Key Chain… Crafty Shines do you know this was Tejaswee’s favorite colour?

Three books marks and a ‘Cake in a Cup’ key chain… (Dizzy Dee’s Cake in a Cup!)

Calvin and Hobbes… to learn a little more about these two ‘literary characters’

And Calvin… : D isn’t there a bit of him in everyone?’

Don’t miss Hobbes’ reaction to the sight of a book mark with his face (below)

Crafty Shines shared these lines,

“…But the threads of memories

Are woven with enduring specks.

I will pick these particles,

Weave the threads,

And I will meet you

Yet again…”

(From Amrita Preetam’s ‘Mein Tainu Pher Milangi’)

I found the lines here,

Mein tainu pher milan gi (I will meet you yet again)

I will meet you yet again
How and where? I know not.
Perhaps I will become a
figment of your imagination
and maybe, spreading myself
in a mysterious line
on your canvas,
I will keep gazing at you.

Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine, to be
embraced by your colours.
I will paint myself on your canvas
I know not how and where –
but I will meet you for sure.

Maybe I will turn into a spring,
and rub the foaming
drops of water on your body,
and rest my coolness on
your burning chest.
I know nothing else
but that this life
will walk along with me.

When the body perishes,
all perishes;
but the threads of memory
are woven with enduring specks.
I will pick these particles,
weave the threads,
and I will meet you yet again.

-Amrita Pritam.

The picture can be seen bigger here.

Main tainu pher milangi

 

Note: I was undecided about what to call this post – ‘Virtuality Shines For Real’ or ‘A Courier from Crafty Shines’ or something else. I asked Phoenixritu on G mail Chat and the post title is her idea. Thank You Phoenixritu.

Books I am reading.

Here are some books I found helpful.

1. The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion ***

It’s about how life can change so suddenly. I could totally relate to the author feeling this was happening to someone else and she was just watching it happen. Also her unwillingness to change anything – because the finality takes a long time to sink in. Moving from our GK house troubled me, because I felt (knowing that was not true) that Tejaswee won’t be able to find us if we moved. Also a feeling that we could have saved her if  we had worn white T shirts while waiting outside the ICU, or put pictures in an empty frame or said ‘touchwood‘ whenever we said the same thing together. The book made me see I wasn’t the only one to feel this way.

2. Forever Ours – Dr. Janis Amatuzio *****

This book is about hope, and for me, also about some comforting ‘make believe’. It is very difficult to believe that someone who is such a part of your life (and will be forever) is now ‘not there’. The book seems to say, “We don’t know, we have reason to believe they are gone forever, but we also have reason to believe they are still there somewhere and they are happy.” The book is about what people see and feel when they have near death experiences.

3. The Knitting Circle – Ann Hood *****

The author lost her 5 year daughter to Meningitis and I could relate to what she felt and how she tried to cope. The book is about how she moved through her grief and how for a long, long time, nothing else mattered. I realise, I enjoyed being a part of what was happening in the world around me but have almost no interest in it now…On some days I cannot think, watch, read, talk about anything beyond my grief. Thankfully there is enough to read about what I can read.

But, this book is also about knitting. This book made me smile, hope and made me want to learn to knit. I think that is a miracle in itself… I have crocheted as a teenager, and gifted crocheted stuffed toys to friends. The last time I tried knitting was when Tejaswee was born, my mom finished it for me. Now I would like to try it again.

I can’t thank Sangeeta enough for recommending this book.

4. Five people you meet in heaven.***

This book is for fathers of sons. Mothers too. I strongly recommend anybody who has a son to read this book. It’s entertaining but I did not find it comforting for me in anyway. This book made me wonder who my daughter would have met if she was in this book. My dad. My husband’s parents. A dear friend I lost in 1994. But once you start reading you realise the author doesn’t think you meet only your family. Read to find out who he thinks one could meet.

5. Shantaram – I was reading it on my daughter’s recommendation (read insistence) but maybe I will have to try finishing it a little later.

Here are some other books I have ordered, will blog about them once I have read them.

The Memory Keeper ‘s Daughter – Kim Edwards

A Summer To Die – Lois Lowry, Jenni Oliver

Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

A Summer To Die – Lois Lowry, Jenni Oliver

Beyond Tears: Living After Losing A Child by Ellen Mitchell (and nine others)

The Road Less Traveled – M. Scott Peck

Thank You sm…

Thank You for this video Sm.

When they cry.

Sat, 2nd Oct 2010

A friend called last evening. She was sobbing. She asked how I was. She said she read Tejaswee’s ‘A letter to the future‘ for the first time today… She excused herself to blow her nose and then again asked how I was. I remembered, when she had called the first time, she had said she had been scared of calling me and how much better she felt after speaking to me and then she had broken down herself. (I blogged about her once long ago.)

She said Tejaswee was just like me. I told her the likeness had bothered me sometimes, specially because recently we often said the same things together, like, “Isn’t it too hot for this time of the year…” or, “I think we should change these curtains…” and then she used to laugh and accuse me of ‘stealing/reading her thoughts‘. It was almost too much and it troubled me – maybe it made me superstitious in some way. It wasn’t just an odd time – but many times during a day. It had become very  frequent lately…

Oct 3, 5 12 am

Last evening we walked  down to a neighbourhood mall to buy a hard drive and to have dinner. Son, who finds evenings the most difficult time of the day, started asking his angry, tearful  questions.

“What would have happened if I had not seen her in the ICU that day…?

Why did someone like her have to die …?

“I don’t think it is good enough that I had 18 great years with her… why are people even born if they have to die so young…?

Having no other answers, my sister in law and I told him the story of Ganga drowning her seven children (from Mahabharata).  We also told him stories from ‘Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist – Janis Amatuzio. I found this book very comforting – thanks for recommending it Shree. I had read, long ago about similar experiences in Reader’s Digest… wonder how many of us – if any, have had such experiences.

At home Gabbar Singh (Proton) senses immediately if I cry, he pushes himself close to me – and he too cries (softly moans)… How much does he understand?

We had these games, where I ask him to “Find Tejaswee! Where’s Tejaswee gone?“, where she hid behind a door or in another part of the house and he used to sniff the floor and the air, to excitedly look for her and locate her. There was much excitement and celebration, wagging and rolling on his back to celebrate the moment of ‘finding‘ her.

The dogs also rushed to the balcony every morning to enthusiastically ‘Say bye-bye to Tejaswee‘ when she left for college.

Here she was playing peek a boo with him this winter…

What is the best way to preserve digital images? I am thinking of storing all her pictures and videos in a single, new hard drive, I have heard that digital images are damaged with time, and CDs and DVDs are a better way to store them. Is that true?

Oct 4, Mon. 6: 05 am

Life now seems to be divided between easy and difficult days. On easy days I can hope, read, eat, think, sleep, talk and maybe even smile politely.

On difficult days everything seems meaningless. Now I look for ways to avoid triggers that cause difficult days… any changes are difficult. Being alone is very difficult. Coming unexpectedly across a scrap of paper with something written in a familiar handwriting in intensely painful on difficult days. Some parts of my brain seem to forget that no such new scraps will ever be created or else why does it hurt so much to find them? The brain might require to find countless such moments and memories to register this…

The thought that the kind of day I am going to have is not really in my control was frightening. I sensed this morning was going to be difficult – and decided to focus on making it easy. So I plan to write emails and posts and read up some more about how to stay positive. Recommendations for books and movies are also welcome. One of the recommendations is Saransh – I hope to watch it soon.