You keep staring at the phone. You cannot believe what you just heard. Only ten minutes back, your only worry was whether your kid liked that new sandwich you made. All of a sudden you are in your worst nightmare. You get up early, drop your kids at school, make it to meetings on time, come back home to a nice dinner…you thought all was fine with life. You clearly had no idea about the nerve-wracking second act to follow. Life is like a slithering snake at times. Hits you when you least expect it. A tornado arrives in the form of a call. You want to wake up screaming but have no idea how. Like a kid deserted in a carnival, you are lost.
It’s strange how you always get nervous when you receive a call from “Home”. You own two houses, and reside in one of your own, but none of those numbers got to be “Home”. Simmer down, it must be a casual call, you say to yourself. No, not this time, a creepy voice sounds in your head. You know. An icy, chill runs down your spine. You remain frozen. You don’t want to answer the ring. You hate to be right. For the first time. And when you hear the words you hoped you never would, you collapse to the ground. You feel as if someone sucked your soul out and left your body standing.
You are all out of tears. Your body is on fire. Nothing seems to make sense anymore. You don’t know where you are. ‘Why’ seems to be the only word in your vocabulary now. Your soul keeps shrieking for help. You close your ears tight. Your wails could break a baby’s heart. Your heart craves to know what your loved one’s last words were.You weren’t there. You can’t forgive yourself. You can’t afford to be a zombie any more. You have to book the tickets. The kids can’t be alone, another you, in another world thinks. You pray they asked for you before it happened. You want to hold them. You hope they didn’t feel any pain when they left. You have so many questions. But the one answer you know, makes all your questions pointless.
You throw some stuff into a suitcase. Your heart bleeds thinking about the times they have been there for you, every single time you needed them. Your stomach is in knots. You are going to throw up soon. And when they needed you most, you were somewhere working on your deadline. You didn’t get to see them. You never will. You let your knees go. You curl yourself into a ball and let out an agonized howl. The person who you want the most, is not there to comfort you. Will never be. You hear your kid ask your spouse why you are crying. You wish you could tell her everything was fine. You wish you were dead. Instead.
You board the plane. Your spouse wants the entire family to be there. Somehow you don’t care anymore. Your little one hasn’t stopped questioning you. The older kid looks at you. She knows, perhaps your spouse must have told her something. You hug your younger one when her innocent lips say, “Please don’t cry, you are making me cry”.
Your mind keeps going to the last conversation you had. Was it just a day back? You wonder. You think really hard of what you spoke about. Yesterday it felt like it was just another conversation. Now you know it will be the most important one, the one you will never forget until you breathe your last. You try hard to remember what ordinary things you spoke about. You remember discussing your relatives. And what you had for dinner. You strain to remember everything. You are disgusted with yourself for discussing IPL and how the latest movie sucked, while you could have spoken about a hundred different things. A hundred different things to say how much they mean to you. You hate yourself.
You arrive. You see. You are lost. You feel completely and utterly drained. You see the smiling face of your loved one, who in another day would have asked you what you would love to have for dinner. You let everything go. You are in another world, where nothing seems real.
It’s all over. You can’t believe you are still breathing. You come back to an empty house filled with people. The screeching silence suffocates you. You close your eyes. Sleep seems miles away. You think about all those last moments you have missed. You can’t believe you can never taste their food again. You think about the fights you could have had. You hate that you missed their last birthday party. You don’t remember the last hug. You hate that you remember the sound of their laugh. You wish you had heard them sing that melody song one last time.
You don’t remember when you last told them “I love you”. It never came up in your last call. “I didn’t know..”, you keep trying to convince yourself. Your cheeks have dried up tear lines running wild. Who is going to give you sagely, uncalled-for advice now, your mind wavers. You can never forgive yourself. Your eyes finally close shut. If only you knew earlier. But one of your grey cells knew. You kept pushing it aside, kept it hidden in a dark alley, because you thought it wasn’t time. But it is time. You wake up screaming.
“Shushhhhh..it’s fine..it’s fine..I think you had a nightmare. Are you ok? You are shivering!“, your partner snuggles up to you. You are wide awake now. You wash your face with cold water, pray hard and come back to bed. With a strong voice you say, “I..I think I just had an epiphany. I want to go home. For good.”. Your partner’s tired voice says, “Umm..What?”. You are unusually calm. “I am going back. With or without you”, you add. Your partner looks at you, “Um, Well, I have just one question for you.”. You wait nervously. “What’s an epiphany?”, asks the sleepy voice.
You smile, move the curtains back, and let sunshine fall on your face. You feel different. The albatross doesn’t feel heavy anymore. You know what needs to be done.
P.S.: Some very close friends of mine went through a personal loss. Sometimes when you know a person that close, their loss seems like yours. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been for them. But they are all dauntless, confident women with an iron will that can’t be matched. They have all been through one of the toughest times, but have come back to face life with a vengeance. I pray for their peace. I also want to say, I love you, to my beloved parents and beautiful sister. -)