Do you believe that each day promises a fresh beginning?

This morning I woke up with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Still not fully awake, I lay wondering what caused it. My mind, unbelievably, still in our life before Aug 2010. And then I realized (or woke up fully). Tejaswee. I tried to think what made this morning more difficult than other mornings, and then I knew.

I had opened Tejaswee’s laptop for the first time yesterday. It look a long time and many tries before I could remember the password. There was nothing new on her laptop actually, except that it was hers. Most of yesterday was spent going through photographs and videos not seen for a long time.

And hearing her voice after months.

Here she is with her favorite turquoise bracelet, also seen in the header and on the sidebar.

How easy it was to take for granted on 12th October 2009 that the child who sat on the kitchen counter, modeling her newest shopping, chattering endlessly, while I added tarka to her favorite dal, was going to be with us all our lives.

I am reading ‘When life changed forever‘ the author says, life was not meant to be predictable or planned, anything might change at any moment. And that the death of a child changes the parents forever. Accepting that we will never be what we were, might make it easier to live with our changed selves. I am realizing that some of the changes are subtle. Some changes come slowly as the realization sinks in. Maybe some of the changes are reversible. But this much is true, now we have two lives, our life before Aug 11, 2010 and this life after Aug 11, 2010.

Ricky Taylor says,

“Our friends and family, and we ourselves, wanted us to get back to ‘normal’. But ‘normal’ had been fiendishly changed….

But it also became very obvious to us that what he had thought of as ‘normal’ was phantom. It existed only in our minds. The reality was that each day promises a fresh beginning…”

The reality was that each day promises a fresh beginning...’
I don’t know how to see that. Sounds positive if one didn’t consider what one has lost.

Do you believe that each day promises a fresh beginning?

On 19th Jan 2011.

I do believe in the entire universe conspiring to help you when you really want something (but not always. I hated these lines this August)… I find positive words and gestures very powerful and very comforting. Thank you for visiting the temple and for praying or thinking of a girl and a family you have never met or known. I have to believe that that is what changed how I felt as the day brought in emails, calls, comments, messages, a surprise book, precious posts wishing a girl known only online, and photographs I will cherish forever. Thank you doesn’t even begin to convey how I feel.

I have always believed in some supreme, kindly power watching over the world. I have never understood how this power allows a mother monkey to cling to the body of her dead baby or the human heart to feel so much pain for something it can’t change. It should have been natural to remember a child with a smile. I read a sad blog by a father who lost his son, Sanstav Paul in Dec 2008, he wishes, like I did, for some comfort, “Beta, if you think that we loved you so much then please come at least once (in my dream) to tell me that you are all right.”

I told my son, as we sat talking till late at night, that there should have been a rule that if the children die before the parents, they should appear in their dreams and say loving goodbyes to the parents. Son said, “They should appear in the siblings’ dreams also.

My mother didn’t call. She was the first person to hold Tejaswee 20 years ago. She never missed her birthday ever. My sister called her to find out how I was before calling me (when the melodrama-queen had spoken to me just the night before!) and they cried together. My mother told her she sees my grieving face all the time, everywhere. I asked her if that wasn’t too much. I could never be what I was, but I was fine. Grateful to be more ‘fine’ than I would ever have imagined.

My sister had once said she hated god when she heard my changed ‘hello’ over the phone. I had thought that was exaggeration too. I asked her if she still felt my voice sounded like a mother’s whose child had died. She burst into loud crying. Tejaswee was a lot like my sister. One morning we were rushing to drop her to school, as we got into the building lift, she looked at my face carefully and asked if I would like her to tell me where all I was getting wrinkled on my face. As we got out of the lift, a neighbour asked what I was laughing about and Tejaswee tried to shut my mouth, “Don’t tell!!” But I ‘told of course, and we teased her for her Sagittarius (ascendant) tactlessness.  So I told my sister what she said didn’t hurt because I could ask her to stop when it hurt and I knew she would.

My sister in law and niece chose to contribute to Tejaswee Rao Scholarship on her birthday. If you too would like to contribute please do  email me. Unfortunately it can’t be done online yet, but the cheque directly in the name of her college with ‘Tejaswee Rao Scholarship’ written behind the cheque would go into the fund/deposit the college has created for the scholarship.

And here’s how her cousin and his fiancee celebrated her life on her 20th birthday.

Dear Tejaswee,

It’s your birthday today and I wish you could be here to celebrate with us. Even though we can’t be together on this day, Sanda and I have decided to celebrate anyway, so we are going to have some yummy chocolate cake this evening and will also give some to the many stray dogs that live under our building (will post some pictures here!!). I am sure you would have enjoyed this and we wanted to let you know that you will be in our thoughts today and we hope we will be in yours.

Sending all our love and two big hugs,
Gaurav
Sanda”

Dreams by Tj91

In the ‘A Letter to The Future Contest’, I had loved the letter by the winner, Shivika Saxena.

“Dear Mom, Dad, Sis, Special Someone

… I don’t even know whether you’ll get a chance to read this letter but I am still writing it because … if some day suddenly I am taken away from all the people I love,  …without being able to say something to everyone I care about …will make my heart die again. I was never good at goodbyes but I cannot make my final goodbye so dry that even my memories begin to wither. ….

… Now with this letter written I can go with a free heart and mind leaving all the adversities and feeling liberated from all the pain…”

(Click to read the entire letter)

This letter made me long for a similar letter from my daughter. I wondered what she would have written in her letter… I could easily imagine, of course, but that was no comfort.

Yesterday afternoon when I visited Tejaswee’s account on Deviant Art, I finally found something I had not seen before. This was published on Feb 10 2008, almost three years ago…

Dreams

by ~Tj91

DREAMS

What do you do when the days go bad,
When all that was good, seems suddenly, sad,
When the last vestige of joy seems gone,

Think of things gone by, gone good
Not of how things could be, how they should,
Would, may have turned out
Don’t fill your mind with so much doubt!
Oh! If I could put your mind at rest
But still, I’ll do my very best…

When things are bad
Oh, so sad,
Sit yourself down, and try to think
The tears that drop, do not blink
Back, let them fall,
And to yourself honestly tell all.
Allow not your biases to decide true or false,
And you’ll come to the bottom of what mauls
Your heart,
And then let it part
Fall into the soft arms of dreams
And sleep, my heart, sleep…!

I was glad to find something by her that I had not read before. She would have been twenty today. I am just grateful she came into our lives and although she had to leave a little earlier than we would have liked, I hope to continue to remember her with a smile, today and always.

2011… and an unbelievable dream.

This new year is like none before. There’s still a wish that I will wake up tomorrow morning to find that the second half of the 2010 never happened. I am sure we are recovering in some ways but they say a child’s death changes you. How much have we changed? I have lost all my fears and worries. What bothers most people (and me earlier) doesn’t matter anymore. And somethings which others might find trivial have become a matter of survival.

Festivities are a painful time. A child’s birthday is now a day both cherished and dreaded. New year eve has no meaning. And one wakes up every morning hoping this day begins easier. I have learnt it helps to avoid whatever and whoever causes pain. This too has become a matter of survival.

Avoiding triggers is not always easy. The biggest trauma triggers are  claims that  another hospital, a different treatment or another set of doctors could have saved Tejaswee’s life. One near stranger asked questions and  although I knew where I was treading, I talked about the treatment and symptoms and illness. And then relived it all that evening.

A friend said that she tried but could not imagine herself in my position. She said even thinking about something happening to her child was just too horrible. Why did it hurt me? It was (and still is) unimaginable for me too. If it wasn’t I would have said goodbye to her when doctors said only a miracle could save her…

Sometimes some people are only expressing how they feel, but I am pushed into days of unbearable lows.

My sister says sometimes I look and sound so ‘normal‘ that it is difficult to remember how fragile the normalcy is. She says it is difficult to know what the right thing to say is. (The answer to this is, when in doubt, just be a good listener and give no unasked for advice. This requires another post.). She remembered how she had called me this September and upon hearing my “Hello” burst into tears saying the emptiness in my voice reminded her of a friend who had lost her daughter five years ago. She said death of a child did that to mothers. I didn’t want to live for five years if what she said was true.

I had reminded her (and myself) that I hoped to remember my daughter with a smile and although I am learning this is not always easy, I am still working on it. Our life has changed and happiness, as we saw it earlier, is no longer a part of this new life.

And yet something happened that brought peaceful joy and happy-sad tears at the same time.

At around 5 am on 3rd Jan, I dreamt of my daughter. She wore her gray sweater and she was smiling. I saw myself holding her close and telling her I had missed her so much because I never got to tell her how much I loved her (and hear the same from her) one last time before she died. No hugs. No reassurances. No idea how she was feeling or if she was feeling anything at all.  No idea, even that we were not going to be walking out together from that ICU. And she smiled with sweet (no other word describes it) understanding, held my face and said she loved us very much and I hugged  her tight and we sat and talked and I think (this bit is hazy) took photographs together.

It was a long dreamlike dream. I told her, after this time spent with her, I could now live with her dying and going away forever. And she smiled sweetly, half teasingly, at my comfortable mention of her death. (I didn’t discuss their death with my kids, fearing, sort of, that talking about death might make it happen. She always thought it was okay to talk about our loved ones dying.) As it happens in dreams, I could hear her thoughts, and she thought (conveyed) she was going nowhere. And I knew in this dream that she had died. And yet the feeling of peace stayed.

I woke up and fearing I might forget parts of this precious dream, shared every detail with my husband. He still relives her time in the ICU when trying to sleep, but for two nights after this dream, he has slept peacefully.

This is another way in which we have changed, …or maybe not changed. Her smile, even in a dream, doesn’t fail to provide hope and strength.  And a reason to remember her always with a proud, loving smile.

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.