My friends lost their young sons and it hit me hard. Like I’ve got my hand caught in a door. An unexpected severe pain which subsided after a while but left me sore and bruised. A teenager With his father’s smile, which did not curve at the ends, but in a broad horizontal line lighting up his face. An emerging mustache beckoned to the distinctive smile that was a sign that a boy was about to become a man.
Death sometimes knocks on the door until it opens, and sometimes, it comes in without being told. When my grandmother, who had a huge hand in raising me, passed away, the grief felt like a needle on a sewing machine. Punching and lifting rhythmically. Forgot for a few moments, he will hit again. The salty air of Mumbai suddenly felt heavy in my lungs, as if it was some liquid going down the wrong pipe. Still, it’s comforting to know that she lived a full life.
But when a child dies, even that modest consolation vanishes. It is the realization of every mother’s greatest fear, which we live with from the time we become aware of another heartbeat inside us. I am reminded of a poem by Emily Dickinson that has stuck with me through the years.
‘I measure every sorrow that comes before me
With narrow, searching, eyes –
I wonder if it weighs as much as me –
Or its shape is easy.
Is there any grief more difficult to bear than the death of a child? An unfulfilled promise and a lifetime of memories that should have been hers?
But harm does not bow to our will. Like the love that comes before, it comes unannounced. To love is to accept the inevitability of separation. one way or another. And yet we are not always ready.
I make a cup of tea, a familiar relaxing ritual. The ceramic cup collides with another while being taken out. The kettle is pretending to be a deaf and mute person playing an unfamiliar tune. Squirt of water in the cup. A chip, the size of a molar. Which I had not paid attention to earlier. Teabag comes sliding in. He floats for a moment. Then it sinks. sink to the bottom submerged. it waits. I wait. First of all it is invisible. Color bleeding. Strongest in the center. Odor, herb, mint and molasses on the rising steam. The teabag loses its shape and function. A piece of paper came out, which was thrown away. I wonder if the teacup, placed with the others, sees this green box with Tetley tea emblazoned with big words, as its world or the waiting room. Was he afraid of missing his essence when he slipped into the cup? Or did he know that he was not being destroyed, only changing form, from a tea bag to a cup of tea.
It is the fourth day. A time when grieving families pray. I watch a slideshow of pictures of the young boy. With his brothers, laughing with his friends, sitting on his mother’s lap. I write to him. But what consolation can you give to a man who forgets his dreams, erases the line of stars he once saw in the eyes of his little child?
I make another cup of tea and sit by the window. Sad For the handsome boy with his father’s smile. And for the loss that could easily have been mine.
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