It was an ordinary day. I was shaking off the remnants of flu. Everyone at my place went by their day as they normally would, taking care of daily chores and endless to-do lists. As I was leaving for work, I left the keys to the main door by my grandma’s bedside. She was gently snoring, enjoying an afternoon nap. I smiled and mumbled, ‘she’s one lucky old woman, enjoying slumber as the rest of the world slaves away to capitalism’. With one last look, I walked out of the door.
I was at work, finalising mock-up for a website that was supposed to go online later in the day. My cellphone beeped. I had a message from my younger sister. “Dadu has expired”, it said. It took me a couple of register what those three simple words meant, and implied. I called back, and she confirmed with a sob. I couldn’t help tearing up myself, and immediately left for home.
On arrival, I saw my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and a member of local funeral committee, talking in hushed tones, circling my grandma’s lifeless body. She looked deceptively calm, lying absolutely still. A thin piece of cloth held her mouth shut, but the flimsy material could barely do its job. Her mouth was slightly ajar, eyes closed and an eerie calm surrounded her.
As if on auto-pilot, my father attacked the to-do list with an abnormal gusto – like getting things done would somehow make it easier to cope with the loss of his only living parent. Family members were called to inform of the heartbreaking demise; funeral, burial and related details were finalized, and we were scheduled to say our final good goodbyes at 10am the next day, before she’d be put to rest at the Saakhi Hassan graveyard.
How did this all happen?
My grandma was 94 years old. She had been bedridden for more than 15 years, and battled with diabetes, high blood pressure, liver problems, along with other health issues. She died in her sleep, so silently that the maid nearby didn’t even realize she was gone.
LESSONS THAT DEATH REINFORCES:
Look who’s around – and hold on to them.
Cliche as it may be, you truly find out who is really a friend and who is just a pretense in times of need. Despite endless differences, families stand together, helping one another deal with grief. My fiancé and his family stepped in, silently taking care of chores, reinstating what amazing bunch of people I was blessed to call my in-laws.
Let’s talk about will and worldly possessions
We have seen enough drama in reel and real life to know what the absence of a will can do to a family. Therefore, my dad, who was the sole caretaker of my grandma in Pakistan, urged her to make a will, and do as much as she can while she was breathing. That’s my dad for you – he’s the most composed, controlled and farsighted man I have ever met. He made sure that Dadu gave away whatever she had intended to whoever herself, leaving her with what she really needed, and what she had intended for charity after her demise.
Funerals can get expensive – if you let them.
All the arrangements for funeral, giveaways for underprivileged, and buffet for over 100 people for three days unnecessarily burdens the family of deceased. Religion favours simplicity, and giving of alms without creating a fuss. Taking a rather bold step, elders in the family decided against the three day feast, gave away to charities that Dadu supported, and urged people who came for condolence to just pray for her soul to rest in peace.
Coping with grief
There is no right or wrong way to deal with heartache. The loss of a loved one can push many over the edge; some recoil to their private cocoons, while other seek out comfort and talk through their pain. Whichever way one prefers, it is highly recommended to not let grief taken home in your heart and life. Return to routine, even if you don’t feel up to it.
A couple of days after burial, the family came together was dinner, and somehow the conversation turned to Dadu. We recalled her antics and stories, and managed to smile.
Nothing will ever be the same again.
Dadu was the last living grand parent in my family. We have been toying with the idea of moving out of Pakistan, but she kept us tied to the land. Now, that tie was severed and we were free, but we still couldn’t entertain the possibility just yet.
Then there was the routine. Supper was a celebrated affair at our house, as everyone loves a hot cup of freshly brewed tea late in the afternoon. The responsibility for preparing tea fell on either me or my younger sister; neither of us were enthused about it. What was even more difficult was making sure that Dadu had her tea with cookies, as she would fight tooth and nail to get away from it. She wasn’t interested in food as she neared her end, and both Bobby and I dreaded the battle awaiting us every single day. Now, there was no one to fight us.
All of a sudden, a half of our house had gone silent. Deafeningly silent. And then there were tears that I had never seen in all my life – the ones that escaped my dad’s eyes.
In my heart, I know she’s finally at peace. It was obvious as her wrinkles eased in her ultimate slumber, and she looked rested. She had suffered for many years, was confined to bed, and dependent on others for her most basic needs. While we wanted her to stay for our selfish reasons, we understand and accept that it was time for her to let go. She held on for so long only for her children. All her sons and daughter came down to visit her a few months before she died, and when the last one of them had left, she quietly said to my dad, “Baba, mere beech mai nahi aa. Mujhe jaane de ab” (don’t stand in my way; let me go now). She knew my dad loved her endlessly, and held her in this world for as long as he could. But eventually, she left despite everything, and yes, nothing will be the same again.