The Lasts

“I am a dreamer. I know so little of real life that I just can’t help re-living such moments as these in my dreams, for such moments are something I have very rarely experienced. I am going to dream about you the whole night, the whole week, the whole year.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, White Nights and Other Stories

Loss colors the endearing moments of the past with a shade of grey and labels them as ‘last’ – the last conversation, the last dinner outside, the last movie, the last books read, the last holiday .. All these common vistages of daily life become enshrined.

We cradle these moments within our grieving hearts for they are our treasures of a lifetime. This is all we got left with. Loss is irreversible, a one way journey, there’s no turning back to embrace these moments one more time, to feel life as it was was once more.

Last evening my little boy proudly showed me how he could ride his bike now without the support wheels. It made me smile but instantaneously tears welled up as I realized it was yet another moment which his mom wasn’t there to witness.

And yet I could see her right there with that beautiful smile, clapping her hands and egging him on. I know she’s always with us but we are humans tethered by emotional chains and we long for the physical presence of the ones we have loved and lost.

It is a testimony to the strength of her character that the last evening she spent outside the hospital was watching our son perform at a school event. It was the same day we got the news that the cancer had relapsed. Yet, she was there as if nothing had happened, smiling and clapping in the audience.

I remember everything of those last months vividly – the last holiday we took, the last few outings, the last few weekends. My mind goes back to the weeks and months before diagnosis when we were still enjoying our innocent lives together.

From the vantage point of the present, I can see clearly how dream like our life was. Without realizing all those moments have become one of the many lasts – the last weekends when life was normal, the last movies watched together, the last few dinners ordered in.

I don’t look back at all this with only gloom and sadness because I also feel immense gratitude for having her in my life. Without experiencing the happiness that we shared, I wouldn’t be surrounded by so much grief. If it’s a price I have to pay for our wonderful years together, I would gladly take all the pain.

Of course I have regrets that I will never experience those moments and that life again. Yet these lasts are part of who I am today, they will forever be my guiding lights in this life and beyond.

Whenever I’m seized by sorrow on empty evenings and nights, I revisit those moments and those places. They hold my hand and walk me through the maze of grief and pain till they bring me to the calmer waters where the pain has numbed.

I have come to realize that to continue on this path and come to a place of healing, it’s important to keep these moments close. My salvation lies in not discarding these moments but rather embracing these and finding peace and acceptance with the fact that as long as I live there will always be a part of me that will be missing and that’s just the way it is now.

Happiness can’t always be found only through laughter and gaiety. Sometimes the sadness that lurks behind is also a part of life. Embracing loss and finding a way to live in spite of it is the real challenge to overcome. There’s no getting over or overcoming loss as people would like you to believe. Loss is a part of us just like love is, now and forever.

A Solo Journey

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Most of the books that I have read about grief and loss say that its a journey where you need to depend on people because the burden is too much to bear alone. While it’s true to some extent, it doesn’t account for the transient nature of the world.

The support eventually dwindles off, people get busy in their lives and some think that with the passage of time, you would be in a better place than before. But as time passes we find that the path has gotten tougher because the initial shock has worn off and the absence takes on new meanings every day.

It’s a constant struggle between managing your grief and being functional. In the world outside life goes on – birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions come and go for others. Every time I login to Facebook I see its someone’s anniversary or birthday. It always reminds me of all that is now lost.

The truth is that grief is the loneliest of journeys. At best people can empathize with your loss but none other than yourself can feel your pain and beyond a point it becomes impossible to even put into words what you go through each day that passes.

Time doesn’t heal, it isolates you further in your pain. It distances you further from the past that you want so much to keep close. I find that after over eight months my grief is still growing each day assuming new shapes and forms.

I have to take breaks and go for walks during the day to keep sane. Many days I just want to be left alone while on other days I want to pour my heart to a stranger. Some days grief is unadulterated, on others it’s laced with fear.

It’s a bewildering but deadly concoction of sadness, loneliness and the feeling of being abandoned amongst the ruins of your old life. I have sincerely tried to enjoy an evening out with friends but I haven’t been able to. There is always the sense of something fundamental being missing and I have realized that what is missing is us.

I haven’t been able to come to terms with death even though I know it has happened. It seems so unreal that I find myself falling into the abyss of believing that none of this has happened yet. I find that I still can’t utter or even hear that word for her. I fear that it will break whatever is left of me.

I have come to realize that I can only look inwards for peace and acceptance because there’s no one out there who can take this journey for me. I need to walk this path myself. I have learned to lean into my feelings and let them pass.

I’m still searching for a modicum of peace which seems so elusive. I’m still looking at the pieces of my life that are left and wondering how can I put them together to create something meaningful. I have come to realize that accepting loss is a painfully gradual process. Each day you find a new piece of your old life that has now gone missing.

Then And Now

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“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.” – Unknown

It’s insane how much life can change within a lifetime. Sometimes I feel as if I’m in another world, another body living someone else’s life. In many ways it is indeed true  for this is nothing like the life I have known.

Over eight months of living in this fog has permanently altered my view of this world and those who inhabit it. Overwhelming sadness, crushing loneliness – these I’ve seen in generous doses. And yet, adversity has taught me things I never thought I was capable of learning, up until now.

Earlier I would come home late after work and just watch TV and relax. On most days by the time I came home my son had already gone to bed. She was the one who would get him ready for school in the mornings and I would barely kiss him goodbye half asleep.

I was almost never involved in my son’s school work other than showing up at parent teachers meetings and sports days. She was the one with all the questions and I was happy keeping it that way for I trusted her way more than myself.

It’s not that I didn’t know my priorities in life. I’m not ambitious and have never cared much for the corner office. I always saw work as something that enabled me to enjoy other things in life – my family, traveling and sightseeing.

I guess I was just a weekend dad like many of us are in today’s senseless world where you are perpetually busy without any aim or purpose. She was the reason I could afford my laziness. I knew with her around, I had nothing to worry about.

She was rescuing me all the time – from nosy relatives, awkward social moments and my own ineptitude. If there was a decision to be made, I would do my usual over thinking and dilly dally while she knew exactly what needed to be done.

Today when I find myself alone, I ask myself what she would have wanted me to do in a particular situation. In most cases I already know and that helps immensely. I’m not as lost as I like to think.

Being a single parent my responsibilities are two fold even though I’m also battling my own grief and depression. I no longer work late even if that means making career compromises.

I find that whatever time I spend taking care of my son – feeding him, changing his clothes or storytelling, it’s the time I’m able to escape my grief and feel good about myself. I find that it gives some meaning to a life gone meaningless.

The other day I had to get his bike’s flat tire fixed. I could have waited for the weekend to get it done but I found a repair shop near home and got it fixed before leaving for work. When I called him from work, I could literally see him beaming. I’ve learned that it’s the little things like these that give purpose to life.

Every morning I get him ready for school and stand amongst a sea of moms waving as the school bus leaves. It was incredibly hard in the beginning and today it feels like the only good moment during the day.

I read to him every night and it’s the high point of my existence . We go to movies some weekends and we fight over who’s eating more cheese popcorn. I have started to really enjoy the kid movies I would generally sleep through earlier.

I just wish she was with us to see me doing all the things that I have learned from her. I wish we could share the popcorn or get berated for making a mess at home. Tomorrow at the sports day in school, I would be the only parent cheering our son on but I know in my heart that I would be doing it for both of us. It’s the least I can do for her.

The Hourglass

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“Every so often, we all gaze into the abyss. It’s a depressing fact of life that eventually the clock expires; eventually the sand in the hourglass runs out. It’s the leaving behind of everything that matters to us that hurts the most.” – Ben Shapiro

I realize that its been eight months and as time passes these milestones are beginning to seem more and more meaningless. The bad days still vastly outnumber the better ones so not much seems to have changed.

I’ve not been able to come to terms with living without her. I carry the burden of each day and I’m relieved once the day is over. I guess I’ve not been doing well and I’ve no clue when or how this will change.

The week days exhaust me physically and emotionally and when the weekend comes around the loneliness and the yearning for the life we had takes on new dimensions. Days go by without me having a conscious memory of most. It’s like an hourglass which keeps getting inverted once the sand grains have fallen through.

In my universe time has stood still and then stumbled along before pausing again. Earlier I couldn’t wait for the year to end but now I shudder at the thought of a whole year where life seems largely unknown. A whole year I’m going to go through all the birthdays, anniversaries and more importantly every single day alone.

Where is the so called ‘new normal’ in all of this? What is normal to others is now lost and elusive for me. Simple things like a conversation or going out together are luxuries I no longer have. What I’m left with is myself and the struggle to survive a loss which seems to grow larger each passing day.

I look back on the days spent in the hospital. Despite knowing the fatality of the disease we were so hopeful of reclaiming our lost lives. We wouldn’t settle for anything lesser. Each day was gut wrenching and difficult and yet there was hope which drove us.

And then just like that it was over and before I could realize what was happening, I found myself alone buried to my neck with responsibilities. This time around there wasn’t any horizon to look at. The landscape had permanently changed.

I went to watch Interstellar yesterday and really liked it and yet I couldn’t enjoy it or maybe my experience of what pleasure feels like is still tethered to my past. I wanted to discuss the movie with her and read reviews together but I just can’t do those things anymore and that takes away the enjoyment part always.

I believe when they talk about the new normal it really means learning to live with the pain without noticing it that often. I guess when you can go out to a movie or a dinner and learn to enjoy it without noticing that empty chair and the darkness in your heart, it’s when you have reached some semblance of normalcy even though I don’t know if it ever truly feels like it.

I’m in no hurry to get there just like I’m in no hurry to do anything in particular. I just do what needs to be done and it’s enough. I couldn’t care less. The little things that you miss everyday are the hardest to endure. The hourglass keeps turning but every day that comes, I still miss her and all the things we did together. It’s not something that time can replace.

Life is elusive

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I fear some days that I will become a recluse. Thanks to my job which I don’t like much and my little boy whom I adore, I’m able to step out each day. I’m told to go out, that staying home isn’t good. As with any other advice or the lack of it, I mull it over.

Many weekends like this one I give up as I don’t want to go out anywhere where my already open emotional wounds start bleeding profusely again . Reality is that I don’t know where to go and what to do alone. When I do step out, it’s no fun at all. I feel so disconnected with the weekend world that it scares me.

I hope it won’t be like this forever but it also won’t be ever the same again. Something will be always amiss without her and overtime I will get used to carrying the pain and not noticing it that often. How much time and how much more I have to endure to get there, I don’t know.

I understand that I just need to keep trying but sometimes it hurts so much just to see the world out there, a world which felt familiar not too long ago. I also know that grief comes to all at some point in life but when you don’t have the shoulder of your life partner to lean on to, it hurts the most.

I’m not yet forty so I don’t have much life experience to count on but then is there something that prepares you for this? I doubt it, the years do not count. Yet, I can’t help marvel at old couples. They got something I will never experience. Grief has made me jealous and bitter.

I see birthdays and anniversaries come and go. People are living their lives, the world goes on. I’m still a part of this world, but I feel it all go by in slow motion with poignant piano themes playing in the background.

When will this stop or is there even such a thing? I’m getting tired of life being this way. I am frustrated and badly need a break from this life but how do you run away from yourself, I have no idea.

So I sign off on this weekend with some lovely music to keep me company and a glass of red wine. That’s about the most exciting it gets these days. I hope all the other warriors out there are doing better. We all need hope – large doses of it.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
― Aldous Huxley, Music at Night and Other Essays

The depths of longing

How deep is this darkness
It seems to stretch into the infiniteness
How intense is this grief
It seems to dissolve into disbelief

How long are the nights of sorrow
There seems to be no tomorrow
How numerous are the pangs of loneliness
They seem to come even during hours of busyness

I feel so alone in a crowd
Without purpose and filled with doubt
Where do I go from here
Is there peace to be found somewhere ?

I fondly remember the days of togetherness
Of love, companionship and tenderness
The sounds of love have been admonished
Life seems bizarre and demolished

I don’t long for tomorrow
All I want is to be with you to escape this sorrow
I know that’s impossible
Yet my heart yearns to make it possible

I know you are free and without pain
I will live this life in the hope to be together again
I told you we will be always together
And I will honor that no matter what storms gather

Where memories belong

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Where do memories go? I find myself asking such bewildering questions often. It appears to me that we remember everything but only fragments of memories bubble up to the surface frequently.

I want to remember every moment of the 12 wonderful years we spent together but I can’t. Many of those years are submerged now lost in the fleeting winds of a time gone by. Yet on many days, something surfaces that I thought I had no memory of.

I vividly remember the first time we met but I can’t recall the conversation or the numerous phone calls. I have no idea what we used to talk about. In fact once I asked her and she didn’t remember either which I told her was funny for she was the one doing the talking all the time.

There are other seemingly innocuous moments which I remember like I’m seeing them now from the outside. For instance, a time when we go lost and had to ask for directions from an old lady sitting in her porch, freaking her out. We had no GPS or Google maps then.

I’m terrible at directions and get lost easily. She would make me remember directions in a  way I could remember – left at second traffic light, right at the third.. We always had a good laugh about it.

Before I met her, I never bothered about food. It must be her enthusiasm for good food and restaurants that I can recall some of the great places we enjoyed our countless lunches and dinners. In fact during the last few months, she was reminiscing about a particular rice bowl she used to love in a place called pepper jax grill few years ago.

That is how memories tumble out sometimes. You see something and it reminds you of another time and another place in this life. There are many other ways in which memories manifest themselves. You remember that smile, that roll of the eyes, that shriek.

Sometimes words are not enough to describe the love you feel when you carry the memories of a lifetime. I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t make me sad, it does but there is a certain healing warmth that comes with the thought that I carry them now and always will, they are mine – not to be taken away or destroyed.

On our trips she would always carry her video camera and make movies. I would always chide her that we never see them at home so what’s the point. I guess she knew something that I didn’t. Today I can’t be more thankful as these are amongst the most precious things I posses. I watch them often and they make me smile in spite of the tears.

Doing the things that she loved – making travel plans, watching master  chef and comedy central or eating out makes me feel better when I’m feeling down and out. They remind me as she always did – life is to be lived and cherished despite the difficulties.

After having suffered such a devastating loss, life often seems pointless. You ask yourself philosophical and spiritual questions about the meaning of life and death. I try to look for some meaning in what seems brutal and senseless.

I find myself asking who am I and what is my purpose here in this life? Why did this happen, who decides these things? It’s easy to ask these questions but finding answers is the quest of a lifetime.

I do believe there is a meaning in what seems meaningless. If there is none then life would be entirely pointless and so would be death. I often read that we are spiritual beings having a human existence. I don’t quite understand that yet but I’m attempting to.

“There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”
― Marilynne Robinson

The Edge of Silence

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I have always been an introvert, solitude has always been a part of me. When my wife was around, I was the happiest at home with her and our little boy. The best evenings we have spent is watching movies together at home over good food and drinks.

She was the one with the outgoing, gregarious, full of life persona and was forever dragging me to social gatherings and events outside home in her relentless pursuit to get me back to civilization outside books and my gadgets.

On occasions when she was out shopping alone, I  had no problems in being with myself. I would watch a movie or read or babysit. I never thought about silence in the way I think about it now that I know she isn’t coming back.

The silence I’m talking about feels like a cold, dark, bone chilling wind that cuts through the soul. It’s omnipresent and doesn’t seem to go away at work or with people. It’s like a permanent background score which keeps playing regardless of the environment.

It’s there when I’m driving, in a meeting, taking a walk, at home or outside – It’s always trailing me like a shadow. It has replaced the sounds that lent meaning to my life – her laughter, arguments, phone calls,constant chatter and many other sounds of a happy household.

Following the cancer diagnosis and the months of unforgiving treatments, my mind was solely focused on reclaiming our lives. I was so busy with everything that it somehow pushed any fears I had to the background. We never dwelled on the worst case scenario.

Today after close to eight months since losing everything we had fought for, I find the silence is deafening and seems to permeate every aspect of my life now. My mission is over and there are no more battles to be fought except with myself.

It grips me from the moment I wake up and clings to me through out the day. I have never been more grateful for sleep and in the instances I happen to wake up at night, I literally feel like dying. Thankfully I’m so exhausted that I sleep through mostly.

Recently I got myself a Bluetooth speaker and started listening to relaxing zen meditation music before sleeping. This has helped with the loneliness but it’s temporary. Just like her absence from my life, the silence seems to be permanent.

I was always telling her things. If I saw or read something interesting I couldn’t wait to share it with her. I told her about work, colleagues, books I was reading, the gadgets I wanted to buy, parenting stuff I had read and much more.

I was also hearing her all the time – talking to our Son, her friends and family on the phone and in general because she loved to talk. There was never a dull moment. I guess these are the sounds of happiness when life seems innocent and so good.

In the immediate days and weeks after her passing, I sometimes felt I wouldn’t be able to survive this silence. It seemed to have a life and sinister presence of its own. Even now when I look back on those days, the mere memory of the pain brings tears to my eyes.

Today it slowly seems to be settling and becoming a part of me. It’s a reality I have learned to embrace rather than fight. I have found that loss has many layers and I have unraveled some as time goes by.

And yet this silence feels threatening, like a sword waiting to strike. I can hear it from the time I wake up and no matter how much I try to accept it, it doesn’t feel real. In some moments, memory of days gone by takes over and it’s as if the sounds I so long to hear fill my heart. I don’t hear silence then, only happy but lost voices calling out to me.

“Then there was a silence he had never before experienced: in it, you could hear the years.”
― Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

Foam and water

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You were happiness and laughter
Like a wave coming in, foam and water
Being with you was pure joy and contentment
A life filled with fun and carefree abandonment

When you smiled that infectious smile
My world was lit up beyond the country mile
You walked into a room and everything became bright
Every worry I had  disappeared into the night

You were the kindest soul I have known
Always looking around and helping people unknown
Your life’s purpose was to spread love and happiness
That you did with so much pleasure and selflessness

It was destiny that brought us together
We spent the years laughing and living a dream together
You awakened me to the beauty of this world
But for me it was you where all the beauty lay in the world

Today everything looks dark and subdued
The colors of this world have lost their hues
Everywhere I go I feel the emptiness and the blues

I miss you and think about you all the time
Life seems out of tune and without rhyme
I wonder what to do to lessen this pain
Every attempt I make just goes in vain

Tomorrow another day will start without you
I will wake up and do the things that are due
But life has changed so much that it can never be the same
I go on only because I carry your love within like a flame