My aunt in India passed away last night. Somewhere in her late fifties, in an advanced stage of cancer. Bereft of life support system. Mom sounded very upset, particularly since she happened to be one of her closer cousins. And I lay on my bed in the darkness and listened to her on the phone, so many happy memories from a different era drifting in front of me.
The trip we had to Orissa together. The way she always praised me saying what a good student I was. The onion pakoras and the goat meat curry she always made for me. The way she always chewed on betel leaves, leaving a distinct odor I always associated with her. My first badminton racket that she had gifted me in the seventh grade.
In the last few years that I have been here, so many members of my extended family have passed away. A couple of aunts and uncles, my grandfather’s brother and his wife, and a couple more. It is weird how mom would tell me on the phone, and I would lie on bed for an eternity, thinking of all those childhood memories, of the fun things we did together as family, of the trips we went to, of the family weddings we met at despite living far away, of those various pujas and religious festivals when we saw each other. The past, thankfully immutable, leaves me with these treasured memories while I realize that I will never see them in person again.
People like me who live thousands of miles away from the family will know what I am talking about. When we choose to be away from our families, we do so with the implicit understanding that there are people in our close and extended family whom we may never see again. We all know that death is coming, eventually. Yet we never seem to be prepared enough for it.
My maternal grandparents, my only grandparents alive, are getting old. When I talk to them, I feel the helplessness in their voice, knowing well that they think they may never see me again. Even when my cool grandma updates me on the new bollywood movies (she is a big fan of bollywood), I cannot help but feel the uncertainty in her voice. I wish that they could visit me in the US someday. I wish I could go back and spend weeks with them, just like the good old days. Yet practicality expects us to move on with our lives, no matter how much we wish to change things.
It doesn’t matter how much I love my family, I know that they will not be there with me forever, and it is just a matter of time. What I absolutely hate is being informed on the phone, and then spending hours remembering the good old days, knowing that the dead will never come back. I know it is something I cannot change, but the pain of living away from family shall never leave me.
You will be missed, very dearly.