Lonesome Tonight

“Now the stage is bare and I’m standing there
With emptiness all around
And if you won’t come back to me
Then make them bring the curtain down.
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?”— Elvis Presley

It’s new year’s eve, it’s party time for most people including friends and family. I don’t begrudge them but it’s just that I feel far far away from gaiety of any sort. What do you say about a year in which you lost your reason for living but are not dead yet. I guess this is what death feels like while being still alive.

I have lived through an impossible year and the coming year will not be any easier. We spent the last new year’s eve in a hospital room but at least we were together. I remember looking out from the window of our room that night and seeing the city lights and decorations. Suddenly I felt extremely sorry for ourselves, something inside broke.

I had been acting strong for far too long. The pent up emotions surged like a ravaging storm and broke through the facade I had been putting up. I broke down, I couldn’t understand why we were going through so much while the world outside could just get on with their lives and party.

There are moments when human strength fails, for me it was one such moment. I was tired, frustrated and exhausted from months of treatments, unimaginable stress and lengthy hospital stays. I’m not particularly proud of how I behaved that night. She was always the stronger one and even on that night, it didn’t change.

From her hospital bed, she called out to me. She held my hand and with a look of fierce determination told me that we were going to beat the disease and reclaim our life. She told me something I will always remember as long as I live – “2015 will be our year”.

When I think about that new year’s eve, it always strikes me how strong she was. But the reality today is  that she’s not there and I’m on my own. There’s no one who can hold my hand and say that it will get better. I feel alone and empty. 2015 is not going to be our year. There’s no our now, but only me.

Today I’m not frustrated that I’m missing out on life. Without her, I have no yearning for the trappings of life out there. I’m carrying on not because I want to but because I have been given no other choice. With the passage of time, I have slowly learned to live alone. I don’t yearn for company as much as I did earlier.

Much of what defined life earlier seems to have melted away in the aftermath. Weekends are as good as the weekdays, the end of a vacation doesn’t give me any blues just like the start of it didn’t bring in any anticipation.

The thought of going through new years eve gave me the jitters. I remembered the years of the past – our first new year’s eve after marriage spent in Disney land or the memorable fireworks in Chicago, the one spent quietly at home with our new born son. I could recall exactly how and what we did each new year’s eve.

Today I didn’t go over to the party area in our apartment complex because I remember her dancing away the night in the same spot two years ago. I chose to have a quiet night alone at home. My broken insides cannot handle anything more.

I ask myself what is so special about tonight. There are so many other nights I feel like this. I guess I feel cheated that the world gets to go on while we are abandoned. She’s not even here and I’m here but just a shell.

Tonight I think about all the people going into the new year without their loved ones and it brings tears to my eyes. I feel their pain, their longing and their desperation. I also know that despite having gone through the suffering of a lifetime our paths don’t get any easier.

There are no new beginnings or fresh starts for us. Our losses are permanent and part of who we are today. The cliches of new year are meaningless to us. And yet we march on to another day and another year. I’m not leaving her in 2014 for time doesn’t define the connection we have. The love we experienced in this lifetime is timeless.

I had everything and then life cheated on us and took away everything. I have a picture of her from the night two years ago. I took that picture at 1145pm and there she is dancing away the last minutes of the year. I look at the picture tonight and I can see her face radiant with joy and happiness. My only wish is that she’s experiencing the same joy tonight. It’s the only thought that can get me through the night.

Homecoming

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All good things must come to an end and so has my vacation trip to Singapore. Being amongst family for ten days and having a new place to go to each day helped keep my mind distracted. It was a much needed break after many unimaginable months when I felt close to tipping over.

I can’t be happier (if I can still use that word) that my little boy had a whale of a time with all his cousins. I am definitely glad I made the trip but I don’t think I can ever say that I felt at peace. At all times I was acutely aware of my loss. Every enjoyable moment was filled with “I wish you were here”.

I felt empty within and abandoned outside. I thought about my lovely wife all the time, I missed her so much. I thought of her when I walked past the stores selling her favorite brands, I thought of her when I enjoyed pancakes, I thought of her when I rode on the train or the bus and I thought of her when we went out for drinks.

I thought about us when I saw other couples walking hand in hand and taking pictures together. I felt terrifying confusion if I was still married or single. I had trouble making sense of a world outside of work and routine.

On this trip I was both mom and dad. I shopped and packed for the trip alone and did many things for the first time. I don’t know how I fared as single parent but I did everything in my power to ensure that our boy had a good time.

As a dad I basked in his happiness and yet I couldn’t ever escape the fact that his beloved mom wasn’t there to enjoy those moments with us. I could hear her and yet when I looked around I found myself alone.

I truly enjoyed the company of people after spending months by myself. I talked about things that I had forgotten I was interested in. And yet at times I felt numbing isolation. My world seemed so different from others. I looked forward to seeing new places and yet the thought of doing all this without my life partner seemed entirely worthless.

I even indulged in some shopping and then just wanted to throw it all away. I felt terrible anger at being at this place in my life for no fault of ours. Every picture I took on this trip reminded me of the void. She should have been with us in every picture but it was just me and my son.

I knew all this before I made the trip. I knew it wouldn’t bring me any contentment. But I made this trip in her honor. I made this trip because she was planning this trip for the last few years. I wanted to honor her zest for life and seeing new places and the selfless love and affection that she had for family and friends.

I wasn’t sad to be coming home but I am sad that I have to come back to a home and life without her. I am sad that the time every one enjoys with their better halves, I will be spending with myself. I am sad that there seems to be no end to this journey and this suffering.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, I guess no one knows but I know one thing that regardless of the pain I endure, I have to continue to walk this path. I don’t really know what I want to do with the rest of my life. Will I ever experience happiness again, will I experience family life again – the only thing I know is that I don’t know.

Time to reflect

I’m on a much needed holiday and though it’s an effort to get distracted from the constant loneliness that always accompanies me, I find that unknown to myself I get ambushed by the longing to have her back in my life.

I’ve been having a great time here in Singapore but it’s just not the same anymore. There are times I want to tell her things, enjoy the moment together but I don’t have her anymore. I day dream about what she would say at this or how much she would enjoy that and I find the familiar feeling of profound sadness surfacing again.

I’m glad for the company and affection of people around me but nothing seems to fill that constant void within. I walk past these stores and attractions and I long for her. I just can’t get over the fact that I’m on this break without her.

This is the holiday she wanted to take so much, I remember all the things she would tell me about her family here and her trips down here before we got married. Today we took a trip on the MRT and everything came back.

I have been feeling much better than I have in all these months and yet that’s isn’t enough to lessen the emptiness within. I’m here and yet there are so many moments I’m not here, just a shell going through the motions of living.

There are moments I genuinely feel better but they are ephemeral, they don’t last long. I’m surrounded by people and yet the loneliness is crushing because don’t have that one person in the world who made everything worthwhile.

I know the pain never really goes away. You see other couples and it makes you miss your past life even more. Why did we never make it, why is it that we are not living our dreams together just like others. I don’t know, I have asked these questions so many times that they seem meaningless now.

This is not to say that I’m not enjoying the vacation. I am but it’s hollow. There is no contentment or the innocence that was once there in life.  Sometimes I feel guilty I’m still here while she doesn’t get to go on. I often think I should live for both of us but it’s easier said than done. When there’s no one to share life with, many of the things that gave pleasure earlier lose their meaning.

If there is any satisfaction, it’s in the fact that our little boy is having a wonderful time with all his cousins. He’s been through a lot and I would do anything in my power to make it better for him because just like me, he didn’t ask to be on this path. This life that we have today was forced upon us. I would like to turn to life and say that while we got handed a really lousy hand, we never really quit playing.

Travel day

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My bags are packed and I leave tomorrow on a much needed vacation. The months gone by have been so difficult that sometimes it becomes hard to believe that life was different before all this came to pass.

The trip to Singapore is something we talked about making every year but for some reason or the other it never materialized. She loved her extended family there and adored the city having been there previously.

We thought we could always go there anytime we wanted,never realized that time was a commodity we were running out of like sand grains. The gravity of making this trip without her is weighing me down tonight as I make the final arrangements.

I can’t help thinking about how much she wanted us to go there together. She would have been shopping for weeks buying gifts for everyone and building up the anticipation of the trip in her inimitable way. I would have done nothing but just shown up on the travel day.

I would have been getting grief over packing my stuff at the last moment and not paying enough attention to what I was being asked to do. I would have been working late and would have probably shown up only hours before the flight. I can almost see how it would have all unfolded.

But today I have packed in advance and have taken the day off even though our flight is very late into the night. I’m in no rush to get anywhere. I want to give myself plenty of time. My bruised self can only take as much.

My little boy is excited and I’m happy for him. Having learned from the few short vacations we have taken in the recent past, I am not expecting the trip to be like what they were with her. It has gradually dawned on me that it will never be like what it was. Trying to look for the mirage of the past is pointless.

I’m just going on this trip without any real expectations. I’m definitely eager to meet everyone and make the most of the vacation but I’m also keenly aware of the pull of the past. There are going to be difficult moments, yearning and longing to get back there with her. I’m going to face it all and not fight it.

Her enthusiasm for traveling and seeing new places has taken us on countless trips together. They are memories of a lifetime. I never thought I would be making new ones without her someday but then sometimes life gets so bizarre that it’s hard to find any meaning in the meaningless.

In many ways, this trip and every one else that I’ll make in the future is in honor of the spirit with which she lived her life. It must be her passion for life that even in my darkest moments, I have found a way to move forward.

Life feels unbearable many times but I believe she’s with me even though I can’t see or touch her, she’s with me even though I feel empty and lost, she’s with me in my darkness and in my light. Wherever I go we are together – in this life and beyond.

Still Nothing

I find myself awake on a Sunday morning while the world sleeps. The early morning light beckons and another day in my life is about to start but all I can think of is you and these words that came to me as dawn breaks..

Still nothing but the cold waves of grief
Still nothing but the salt water from the eyes that leak
Still nothing but an empty heart that never skips a beat
Still nothing but a silence that spreads like a sheet
Still nothing but only love that emanates for you
Still nothing but the desperation to never let go of you
Still nothing but the will to carry on without you
Still nothing but our dreams to carry me through

It’s just emptiness

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“In all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”
― Carl Sagan

I have been feeling quite strange lately. Sometimes I almost feel better but I realize it’s just that vast emptiness within. It’s like a dam that holds the surge of emotions. I follow a similar routine most days and it’s so mind numbingly monotonous that it helps to hide the grief.

As time passes, my former life seems to be floating further and further away from me. I wonder if someday I will lose sight of it and question myself if it was all just a dream. I have begun to accept a few things – that life has changed forever, that I have changed, that the relationship I had cannot be recreated again, that I have to find meaning in a life gone meaningless.

In the beginning all I could do when I wasn’t working was to stare at the walls and feel my salty tears. Taking care of my son was the only thing that gave me a little peace and it has kept me going through my darkest days. Reading to him every night, playing board games or watching kid movies together has kept me sane.

I have come to realize that this emptiness I feel is life long. There’s nothing in this world that can make it go away. So I have stopped raging against it. Things are certainly more bearable than they were initially but that’s only because going through so much pain makes you accustomed to it. It becomes a part of who you are.

I thought about learning something new just for the pleasure of it. It didn’t make any sense in the beginning but slowly I have realized that there’s only as much wall staring I can do. So I’m learning how to play the keyboard by myself. I got myself a nice yamaha keyboard and armed with YouTube tutorials, I’m discovering the healing power of music.

I have never played a musical instrument in my life and I totally surprised myself as I was able to pick up a few famous tunes. It greatly amused me that I could play some discernable music. Even more amusing is the fun my little boy has hitting the random keys. I hope to get him into piano classes. Maybe both of us will learn together – one at seven and the other at thirty nine. But really there’s no age to learn anything.

The last month of the year is upon us. To be honest, I couldn’t care less. It’s not that the moment we hit 2015  all my troubles will be over and there will be a new beginning. It will be just another day much like the many that I have no recollection of.

If there is anything I’m looking forward to its the vacation starting early next week. I have accepted it will never be the same without her but the only expectations I have is to be around friends and family for a few days and see my boy enjoy his break. Both of us have been through hell and back. I guess we do deserve a break.

The Unknown

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“sometimes we doubt the truth in the face of this earth, but not to worry. the important thing is to follow your conscience to walk in the truth”
― Handi Priyono

Before this tragedy upturned my life, I never gave death much thought, I never wondered where death takes us. Death was more or less of academic interest to me. I read Randy Pauch’s last lecture, I read the Buddhist philosophy of death and dying, and watched movies which romanticized death. In short, I was an outsider to loss.

In the months that have gone by, I have spent lot of time just thinking about how can a person vanish like that. One moment here and then gone never to be seen again. My fogged mind and grieving heart needed some answers.

I don’t believe in organized religion, I have trouble with anything that says only their way is the true path to God. Religious dogma and rituals are meaningless to me. Dazed and bruised with a loss I could barely comprehend I desperately needed to find a foothold in something.

I refused to believe she was gone from my life. In the beginning it was self denial and later plain desperation to hold on to something. I couldn’t see how I could just accept something like that and move on. I’m not wired that way.

Then I read several accounts of people receiving signs and messages from their deceased loved ones. I read about mediums who would relay astounding messages to those left behind . I had lots of time to myself and I filled the hours with reading with an open mind. I was desperate to believe that the connection continues.

I do believe what I have read it true or true to an extent. I completely believe that there’s something that lies beyond the five senses though which we perceive this world. I believe in the premise that we can’t comprehend God. There is a great mystery which we are not designed to unravel.

I also have a healthy skepticism about many things I have read. I find the explanation that everything happens because our soul needs to grow through loss, is over simplistic and seems designed to answer everything rather conveniently . I don’t know if everything happens for a reason, if all events are part of karmic contracts.

I cannot claim to have read everything in this realm. I have just wetted my feet. It has certainly helped with my grief. When people say she’s always with me, I want to truly believe it and don’t want it to be another platitude. I want to be able to experience the connection.

I do know it all starts with belief.  The several true stories, books about the souls journey and the nature of consciousness and reality certainly point to the fact that our loved ones continue to participate in our lives.

And yet, how does one comprehend the reality of physically losing your heart and soul. It’s not easy to wake up in the mornings and not find them. It takes a lot of courage to move from a physical to a spiritual connection. There is solace in the knowledge that perhaps death is not the end but just a passing and yet it represents a world that is lost forever. We are left behind to continue in the same world that has folded upon us.

We want our loved ones here with us, we want the world to go back to what it was. And nothing would give us that. Therein lies the source of such intense grief. I don’t know what could really help with that.