Life has been a lot more down than up since Easter this year. Mummy fell severely ill with a lung infection. After a phase of improvement post hospitalisation, her health started detoriating gradually until the Lord took her to be with Him. All the while she was kept in sedation, denying us an opportunity to say any meaningful last words in this life.
She was the sweetest person I have ever known. Truly. I depended on her a lot more than most other sons depend on their mothers – for care and comfort – right through the 26 years of my life and she has never failed me. She had to go through a lot, first with the cancer and its treatment. Then even as she was putting up with it with a smile on her face and lots of cheer in her heart, the infection caught hold of her – refusing to let go – adding pain upon pain.
‘Ma was a woman of strength, but all that strength was concentrated in her inner being. On the outside she was as delicate as a flower. Yet somehow she managed to make full use of her brittle frame to serve as many as she could – denying herself what many would consider as basic needs.
Things of the world didn’t attract her much. There was very little that she wouldn’t let go of, if she knew that in letting go, it would be of better use to another – or even if it could just put a little smile on another’s face. But she cared for people. A lot. I wish she had kept back a fraction – even a small amount – of that care for herself. But then, that was her being her.
Her siblings tell me, that she was so always, even as a child. Not too easy when you’re the middle child. But it’s not as though she wasn’t loved, being neither the youngest or the eldest of the lot. She was a darling to her parents. I mean, why wouldn’t they love this little girl who was quiet, bashful and meek in the truest sense of the word..? Yet at the same time, she was crafty and resourceful and always willing to be of help.
In her passing, I got to hear some stories of her from her younger days that reflect these words in her life. Her elder sister told me of how when they would get a pack of assorted biscuits or any treat rather – in a time when such surprises were rare – her siblings would fight it out for the best piece, while mummy would quietly wait till everyone had what they want in their hand so that she could have what’s left over in the pack. Eating whatever is left over/what’s least desired – a habit which I could testify that she carried on till the day she was diagnosed with that dreaded disease.
The same sister was the one who picked mummy’s wedding saree due to circumstances. ‘Ma didn’t even mind fore going that most cherished choice, aunty said. She told me, “she never complained”. I told aunty that ‘ma loved that saree. The fact that she wore it on many festive days is testament to that. And it was in that saree that she was draped in as we laid her to rest.
Her younger brother told me how to him she was a nurse at one stage in her life after he got gored by a bull under his lip and was afraid to tell their mother. He was afraid that he’ll be scolded. So mum decided to spare him more pain and looked after him with the little nursing skills she had till his wound healed. Amachi – my grandmother – didn’t know this story till much later on in life. To her youngest brother – who was much younger than all her siblings – she was a mother, teaching him to brush and helping him to put on his shoes before school, he told me.
When I think of all that I heard from people during these days, she was all that she was to them and more for me. A mother who didn’t just take up the occasional role of a nurse for me as a child but even later on as a grown up, she was a nurse for me for four years before becoming sick – and even for a little while after she knew she had cancer. For a major part of those years I was completely bed ridden, and heavily dependant on her. She worked during the day, and I demanded work from her before she left for work and as soon as she came back. She slept late, and at times at night I have disturbed her short sleep for my needs. There’s not a day or moment when she complained for all that she did – rather that precious smile of hers was what I woils always get in return. Even when I hardly appeared grateful for all that she has done for me – even at moments like that when in my foolishness my tempers flared – she never lost her calm. She never saw herself as a person worth fighting for – even though she was among the rarest of people who was.
She was my financier – as my dad loves to pull her leg over [though he wasn’t any less of a spender for my desires]. Any request I had, was granted – unless of course, she felt it wouldn’t do good to me. The cost was never a constraint. Though we didn’t have any money isssues, we were a family in the middle class bracket, yet I lived the life of affluence as a child. No friend of mine could’ve easily guessed that I came from a middle class family – until they saw my mother perhaps. Not that she lacked style – she could pull off elegance with ease – but she spent so little on herself that her dressing hardly reflected the high positioning she reached in her career. As a child, I was ashamed of that at times. I wanted a mother who was stylish and all that, while my mother seemed so keen to be anything but. I’m glad though, that that part of me changed as I grew up under her influence. That I saw the beauty in that simplicity long before she passed. I admired her more than any man or woman for her beauty and style.
The pain of being separated [even if it is but for a short while] from such a beautiful person is one thing. To have such a huge void in your life. To know that while you write the lines of your life you wouldn’t be able to write it with her by your side, to read and appreciate or to disapprove and correct. That has been something I have dreaded for long. But there is something worse. Even worse than having to watch this woman – the sweetest of them all – endure physical and mental agony. The guilt that weighs in on you when you start to think of the things that you could’ve done – that might well have spared her this suffering, or at least have made it more bearable – but did not do.
And it is in the midst all this guilt and pain that I realise which of all that I have received from my mother is the greatest gift she gave me. Introducing me to my Lord and Saviour – Jesus Christ. The source of all the comfort that I find in these trying times.
She never sat me down and made me study the Bible. At least, not that I could remember. When I was little she would read stories from a Children’s Bible. But even then the tales I loved to listen to were of people like Noah or a David or a Jonah. Jesus and the New Testament tales were not the ones I loved the most. No that wasn’t how she introduced me to Him. She lived a life that held on to His principles. Through her I learnt what is mercy and forgiveness. Through her I learnt what is patience and what it means to never act in anger. Through her I learnt the joys of giving. Through her I learnt impartiality – a trait my sister would testify to. Through her I learnt what is humility. I learnt that all these were good [, though at many times I couldn’t act the way that I knew was good]. And when the time came for when I finally met the Lord and got to know Him as a person, I knew that He was and is and ever will be, all that is good.
He is the Truth that keeps me in the race, to keep me from giving up. His promises take away my anxiety and sorrow. When the Bible says in Romans 8:28, that “All things work together for the good to those who love God”, there is a peace knowing that there is a purpose to all this chaos – and a good one at that – even if I am at a loss to explain how. But I do not just believe that all this will work together to the good for me and those who are alive in this world, but for my dear ‘ma too. For she believed in Him and loved Him. Though our time here on Earth may come to an end, there are still many more days reserved for us, days where we can enjoy His goodness for eternity.
Death is but a sleep to those who have come to the Lamb. And that is the promise that fills my heart with cheer. This separation is only for a moment. For eternity we will be together – mummy and all our loved ones and me and the Lord. I so long for that day, when I will see her smiling face once again. And I will. For,
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
1 Corinthians 15:52
“You’ve been a sweet daughter, a loving sister, a devoted wife, a cherished friend and a perfect mother. You’ve given it your all. You’ve given it your best. Now take a rest that you well deserve until that blessed reunion in our Lord’s Kingdom. See you soon, ‘ma….”