How careless it sounds, as if we had misplaced her; as if we were busy doing other things, then turned around and found she had vanished.
And of course, it wasn’t like that at all.
Siddhika had been carefully guarded her entire life. Januka, her mother, had watched her every move. She had built her career based on Siddhika’s needs: She became a Special Educator. She practiced Early Intervention at every stage of Siddhika’s development.
And yet, we still lost her. Siddhika was nine years old and she died after a three-day illness: fever, seizures, collapse. A small, somewhat fragile child with a complex disability, we were all, nonetheless, stunned to hear of her death.
All of our children fall ill at times. They sicken, we panic, they recover.
In fact, I left Moy Moy sick in bed myself to attend Siddhika’s funeral. I wasn’t worried because you simply can’t live your life on edge like that. Anything could happen to anybody at any time – we have to keep living and working in spite of that constant awareness of the precipice we are perched on. But it all came home with a jolt yesterday when the worst that could happen – did.
A whole group of us went to meet Januka and her family and to offer what little comfort we could, so sadly aware that in such times, there are no words, there is no comfort. All we can do is to be there, to hold hands and to weep together. So we said our futile words, we cried with everyone else, we hugged Januka and her sister and her parents-in-law and finally we went away – leaving our friend to a grief whose sharpness will lessen with time but which will always be a part of her life from now on in.
When I got back to the office – weary beyond description, for there is nothing so exhausting as grief – I searched for the 2014 calendar. Siddhika had been one of our pin-up girls that year and the quote I had used to accompany the photograph was eerily prescient:
The truth is,
most of us discover
where we are headed
only when we arrive.
All the way to and from Januka’s home, I had been pondering the meaning and the purpose of Siddhika’s short life. Why had she come into the world if she was to leave it so quickly? What was the point of Januka’s suffering? Now, as I gazed hungrily at the photograph I had taken of her daughter, I thought that maybe I could understand.
The fact is: there is no reason for all that we suffer. Life is cruel and random and everything we have hoped for and dreamed of can be shattered in a single moment. And yet, within the suffering, there are moments of pure joy.
Look at Siddhika’s face. Januka devoted her life to this child and the happiness she infused her brief years with are there to be seen. She is now where she belongs – a part of the ages, a part of eternity. And Januka will have her forever.
Because: “Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were. They are now wherever we are.”