Little girl in red sweater, reaching out to yellow flowersMindfulness haunts us these days. We can’t stop thinking about Moy Moy. Often, we think so much we forget that she is gone.

Yesterday, Ravi and I were about to go for our morning walk. He said “Let’s go quickly so we can get back before Moy wakes up.” We thought it or said it every day while she was alive and we felt almost like teenagers sneaking out while she was still asleep. Sarita and Vikram were upstairs so she wasn’t alone, but it still felt daring and reckless.

Now every street we walk down carries something of that memory – that stolen time which she permeated even then by her absence. We were walking without her but we were always conscious of her not being there.

She slept with us and we always pushed a heavy chair up against her side of the bed to protect her from falling.  A few nights ago, I pushed that chair halfway across the room before I remembered that she no longer needs our protection, that where she is now she is in no danger of falling out of bed.

It’s a kind of mindfulness.

She occupies my mind now, in ways she didn’t when she was here. I get to work on time now every day and every day when I walk through the gate, every day when I see other people hurrying to be on time – I think of her. Punctuality wasn’t possible when she was here, not just because I had to get her ready every morning but because I was always so tired. I didn’t realize until it was no longer happening but I never had an unbroken night of sleep. Over years, it took its toll.

Her not-presence permeates everything. I’m in a meeting and suddenly there she is. She’s just gazing at me, no demands, no concerns – she’s just looking. We sit down to dinner and automatically reach out for the wheelchair that isn’t there. Its non-existence feels more real than the chair did when we would pull it close to the table so that she could be a part of the circle.

Her presence is everywhere and nowhere. The house is full of reminders, but her side of the bed is empty. There’s no towel on her rack in the bathroom. Her shoes, that I had scrubbed clean, lean up against the wall where I put them to dry weeks ago and her stroller sits idly on the verandah. We gave all her unopened medicines back to the pharmacist, but the little funnel we used for the tube and the small cups we put those meds in stand by the sink where they always lived. I still have a huge collection of hard-to-get 60 ml syringes that we used to floosh the tube clean after each feed. They were so precious when she was alive I’m not sure who to give them to now that she no longer needs them.

That tube of hers went with her to her grave. I don’t know why I keep thinking about that, but in some strange way it makes me feel jealous. It’s still with her.

In America, there are professionals who handle everything. The undertaker (what a vivid word!) comes and carts the dead body away in a stately black hearse, designed just for this purpose. A few days later, you go to a funeral parlour and meet the body again. It is now lying in an expensive and ornate coffin and is usually unrecognizable. The hair has been done in an unfamiliar way and the face is caked with make-up.

In India, we do everything ourselves. I wasn’t here when Moy Moy died (that’s a different story) and by the time Cathleen, Anand and I arrived 36 hours later, she had been bathed, dressed and was lying in a refrigerated coffin in our living room. Neighbours and friends came in and out and the women who had helped us care for her for so many years sat in vigil. They had been with her body since she died.

The stunning enormity of what happened hits me at different times and in different ways. When this picture was taken, I was intent only on the heroic effort of lifting our daughter into the simple wooden coffin she would be buried in. What I was actually doing didn’t really strike me. I was doing it, but there was no mindfulness. When I saw the photo weeks later, it was as if it were only just happening at that very moment. I was in my office, going through the hundreds of pictures Manik had taken. I put my head down on my desk and wept. It was as if we had only just lost Moy Moy that day.
Elderly mother and father in Indian clothes lifting the dead body of their child into a small white coffin. Younger man and woman helping them in the foreground.We lose her again every day. This sadness is so large it hides itself in everything we do and everywhere we go. We go through it over and over again – opening a cupboard, a letter, a door. Turning down a certain street, noticing a certain slant of light, leafing through a certain book. No action is safe, no moment is protected. It can come at any time and it will stay as long as it wants. We are riding this wave of grief and mindfulness seems to be the only way through.

Watch it. Experience it. Accept it.

She is ours. She is gone. She will always be with us.

Indian girl in blue sitting in wheelchair with an enigmatic smile.

Showing 6 comments
  • Aparna Das
    Reply

    “We lose her again every day. This sadness is so large it hides itself in everything we do and everywhere we go.”

    I do understand Jo. I can feel every word you have written. This feeling will last for long, and in a sense, we are lucky it will. If you know what I mean.
    Love

  • Sangitha
    Reply

    Oh gosh, Jo! So wish there was something we could do to wipe away the heaviness and remember the good stuff. Tight hugs winging their way from here!

  • Anita Charles
    Reply

    Jo, your writing is profoundly beautiful, and leaves me breathless. I am reminded of a video I saw recently that someone posted… A circle scribbled from edge to edge with grief — the reality that it permeates every aspect of life. The video goes on to say that the scribble of grief doesn’t ever shrink, but rather that the circle of living expands beyond it over time.

    I would like to share this post with my current students who are taking my course in Special Education.

    Thank you for opening your heart in this way, so that others can feel and learn and grow from you… and from Moy Moy.

  • Dunu
    Reply

    You are blessed in more ways than anyone I know.

  • Elita
    Reply

    Thank you for writing
    For you
    For Moy Moy
    For someone like me

    Thank you for giving yourself the space & the permission to grieve
    And letting someone like me be a part of this too

  • Pushpendra Pandya
    Reply

    This is a heartfelt post. Got me very emotional only while reading it. Cannot imagine how you and family might have been… some absence create a whole new world within our mind. Memories and nostalgia becomes its fuel. My prayers.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful part of your life. I am certain your brave writing will give courage to others.

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