My Paati was 86 years old when she died. In hindi there are a couple of words to denote death - mrityu and dehanth. When my family and I were talking about death, my father mentioned dehanth was a much better word because it signifies the freeing of the soul from the body, while mrityu carries with it just the finality of death. I like his explanation for it and was really surprised to hear my father speak in this manner. I hope my paati's soul has found peace. She suffered in the end. That knowledge makes me angry and sad because it did not warrant or compare to the life she led. I wish she had died peacefully in her sleep, not in an ICU, suffering complications and being in pain. She had such a zest for life, this end makes it unfair. I suppose the positive way to look at it would be that she fought till the end. This resilient woman was beloved to so many people. I've heard such lovely messages and words come my way from people who even met her for a few moments. She made everyone feel welcome and a part of the family and you don't find that too often. She didn't know English (maybe a few words and teaching her was sometimes funny), yet she managed to share her warmth just by smiling.
She's been there when I fell in school and carried me home because my knees were bleeding badly, she's been there when I had surgery, she was the first one to know about the guy I wanted to marry, she was the only one who interrogated/interviewed him when he first came to visit, she yelled at people who asked why I wasn't having kids 6 months after getting married, she's traveled with me, we've taken care of each other, she loved making me my favourite dishes, she fought for me, she really loved me for who I am. How am I supposed to go on without that constant in my life even though this is what life is about. I ask that question and yet I know time will temper things and I will move forward and she will always be alive within me.
She was married to a famous tamil comedian actor. She lived a good life. She became a great-grandmother in her time. She's a breast-cancer survivor. We saw her change over the years as she deteriorated in health, but she always took an interest in the goings-on of our lives and our general well-being. When I got divorced, she didn't berate me for it. Instead, she told me to be happy. She suffered two strokes in a year and was paralysed from the waist down. She needed to be moved into a nursing home for the last few months. She didn't even die at home. Both my grandfather and my grandmother passed away in a hospital in Los Angeles surrounded by medical personnel and inundated with tubes. That's the sad part of it all, I wish I had been there with her at the time. It was difficult to visit her in November, for a week, at the nursing home but I knew I needed to go see her and spend time with her. As I told my father, "There's no point in going after she's dead. She won't even know I'm there." I remember walking into her room at the nursing home with trepidation because I knew it would be difficult to see her changed. But when I walked in, she looked up at me and smiled in recognition and that was all that I needed. She said, "Veenu nee vandhutiya?" (Veenu, you've come?) and that was all that it took. It was almost like she had been waiting for me. I stayed by her side, fed her, helped with her physiotherapy and got her to speak a little. My uncle and aunt said that she hadn't spoken or eaten as much as she did until I got there. I know she loved all her grandchildren but there was something special between us and I don't say it to make it seem like I was the best grandkid, but we've been through so much - she's been a constant for the time that I've been alive. I really miss her and I wish she didn't have to die in the manner that she did. That one thought generates the breakdown in me. I haven't been able to eat for a week. I've tried. But my body rejects the food. Paati loved food, she liked trying new things. In the end she wasn't able to eat anything - maybe take a couple of sips of water or coffee. Of all the ironic moments, I wish that hadn't been it. I just keep seeing her face and how much I coaxed her to eat something and it felt like the greatest accomplishment on earth to get her to finish one meal. I guess we came full circle in our own way.