“Perhaps grief is not about empty, but full. The full breath of life that includes death. The completeness, the cycles, the depth, the richness, the process, the continuity and the treasure of the moment that is gone the second you are aware of it. Alysia Reine”
When I started out on this life long journey of grief, I wasn’t aware of where this path would take me. In the early months and years I could not really believe I could withstand this intensity of the pain. I could not understand how everything could be taken away from me in an instant.
Before my wife was diagnosed with cancer, we had a blissful life for many years. From the moment we got married in 2002, our life had been full of excitement and adventures. We had bought our first home together, travelled to exotic locations, lived abroad for many years and were so fortunate and privileged to be parents to our little boy who was born in 2007.
In the years prior to that fateful day when we got the fatal diagnosis, we led a busy but very happy and prosperous life. I was busy at work and she was busy at home being a full-time mom to a bright and mischievous child. We celebrated festivals, birthdays and anniversaries with great gusto which was so characteristic of her positive and outgoing personality.
Life seemed to be moving ahead in full steam. Every year we would go on 3-4 vacations. It was her favorite activity to research new places and plan family trips. Looking back it seems those years flew by in a blur. Of course I had never anticipated our life together being interrupted permanently.
I had thought this was how life would continue, in fact it would get even better as we looked forward to the next stage of life. We had so many things lined up – vacation trips, moving to our new house, making annual trips to our parents place and the thing she looked forward to the most – enjoying every minute of our little boy’s childhood.
She was extremely fit and led a very active lifestyle. In all our years together I never ever saw her brooding or worrying about something. If something bothered her, she would just take it head on. We all counted on her for everything from small to big, being well networked and informed she was a natural decision maker.
Disease,treatments and hospitals were alien concepts to me. Those were things I read in the papers and generally avoided. Both of us had never been admitted to a hospital. She understood the importance of good health and frequently spoke about it and it was evident in the discipline and zeal she had about fitness.
And then out of nowhere Cancer entered our lives. It wasn’t just any other easily treatable variant but Cancer in its most lethal form – Leukemia. Even after the diagnosis and the subsequent treatments, I didn’t realize how potent it was though I consider myself to be of a scientific temperament and read everything I could get my hands on about the disease. I read other people’s accounts of fighting this dreaded disease, I read in depth about treatment options and even medical research papers and studies that were publicly available.
I guess my vision was blurred because of the fact that I thought she could defeat anything. I had more faith in her than in anything else.Those seven months of gruesome treatments turned our life upside down. I found myself managing home, work, my child and the relentless hospital admissions and treatments.
Of course this was nothing compared to what she had to endure, rounds after rounds of brutal chemotherapy treatments took her to the edge but every time she would rally and come back and recover. Only a person with an extraordinary willpower could have endured what she did.
Not even once she would complain. In fact on the good days when she was feeling better, she was very much her usual self, checking on everything, watching her favorite master chef on TV and even enjoying the hospital food. We would often talk about all the things we would do once she was better.
In between treatments we found time to go on what would become our last vacation together. And then just as things were looking up and we thought the worst was over that our world folded on itself. The cancer had returned after a brief remission. Once more we rallied.
When Leukemia returns, its ferocious and the only option is a very strong dose of chemotherapy. This proved to be fatal as her body had been weakened by continuous rounds of treatments. The risks were grave but there was no other option.
Her last words to me were “I’ll be fine” and I told her not to worry about our son. At the time I had no idea that this would be our last words to each other but that’s how it turned out.
Plunged into widowhood at 39 with a young child to look after, my world collapsed around me. I had counted on her for everything from running the household to taking major life decisions. Suddenly I found myself to be the sole decision maker. I cringed with disbelief when I had to sign forms and mention that I was a single parent.
But life didn’t stop, the world moved on as if nothing had happened. There were bills to be paid and other pressing responsibilities both at home and at work. I don’t know how I dragged myself to work each day but I knew I had to keep my head down and keep moving forward. I had made her a promise and I would honor it in every way possible.
Most of the people around me didn’t get what I was going through. People whom I had considered close friends parted ways for inexplicable reasons. There were few who stayed and I’m extremely grateful for them.
I met several other people on this journey through my blog. Their thoughtful comments and their own experiences provided much needed peace to my shattered soul. I read extensively about grief, spirituality, afterlife and many such things I had not bothered to think about earlier.
Today I’m married again and have a great family. Life is good once more and I have come a long way since those early days. I used to read that grief changes and I can understand what it means now. It never goes away and there are always days and moments when it rears its head out of nowhere and in most unexpected places.
I’m still bitter and angry about what happened and how unfair it was. I don’t know if I will be ever able to make peace with it. I have moved forward not ‘moved on’ because no such thing exists.
Our son just turned ten and he’s a bright and happy child. I talk to him often about his mother telling him funny stories and all the things that she used to do for him. He has a new mom in his life who also loves him a lot and he begins each morning with giving her a big hug. He also has a big brother now and though initially it was hard for both of them, they have bonded and are now just like any other siblings. They share a room, fight, play video games together and are protective about each other though being boys they would never like to admit it.
Life turned out to be very different from what I had imagined. Just a few years ago, I would never have imagined undergoing so many life changing events in such a short time. I have changed in ways that sometimes I also cannot understand completely. Life meanwhile has continued to move on regardless.
Yesterday marked four years since I lost my wife. The loss was multifold as I also lost my best friend and the person who knew me inside out. We were together for 12 years and though I should be grateful I got those with her, I also feel a deep sorrow that she was taken so early and left behind so many unfulfilled dreams.
I don’t look for answers because nothing can justify her absence. Her extraordinary spirit is very much alive and with me always through life’s ups and downs and I carry her in my heart wherever I go.
Yesterday when I woke up and looked outside I saw cherry blossoms blooming on a tree nearby. They were her favorite flowers.