It feels like I have been solving a puzzle for the last three years. And I don’t know how many more years I will continue to do so. Perhaps forever. Perhaps this agony of not knowing the actual sequence of events will always stay. It will manifest itself in different forms – frustration, tears, anger, doubt and sometimes denial. And may be thats what he wanted for me. I believe that had I seen it happen, I would have accepted it and moved on. But I did not see him breathe his last breathe. No one did actually. And thats even more discomforting.
It’s been three years since his departure. And yet the memory of the morning of October 2nd 2010 is clearly imprinted in my memory. I don’t forget details. I hold on to them. I cannot erase the memory of my cell phone flashing Stuti Calling at 7:21am. I cannot forget the feeling of extreme pressure almost like a dagger in my heart. (Or my ribs..I cannot tell). I cannot forget the experience of continuous pain in my upper abdomen until I reached India. I experienced gravity exerting its strongest force pulling me down and each word that I uttered had to fight against that downward pull. There was a loud hail of cry at some point. It was only after that I started breathing again. It was not normal though. I felt as if someone had sucked oxygen from this bubble I was forced into a few hours ago. I was alone in this bubble. I could see people and yet not see them. I was talking and yet not talking. I was listening, but not really listening.
I also cannot forget that the night before his departure was the last night I slept without a trace of fear. Fear of not being there when it happens. Out of all the things that I regret in my life. And luckily there are only few (yet). I regret not being by his body after his soul had departed. I regret this not for him. But for myself. I did not see him go, I did not see him being taken away. I did not see him burn.. then how do I believe that he is no more. I was told that it was better for me that I did not see it. I have a faint heart. I disagree. It is better to stabbed once than being poked with arrows every day. But then again, fact is I don’t know. Because I was not there.
I never asked anyone to tell me what happened. I never asked anyone to recount the events to me. I just gathered what others have told me over the years. My mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, my in-laws, the neighbors, relatives who also heard it from the others. I heard snippets. There are these pieces of information that I have gathered for three years now, and I am continuously trying to put this puzzle together in my head. Each time I find a piece I add it to the set. I don’t know it it is the missing piece. I don’t even know if there is a missing piece. But why do I need to put this puzzle together? It is because I think when I have it clear and laid out to me I will experience the feeling of complete acceptance. My grief is incomplete. I cry and then wonder. I recount and then imagine. My mind struggles to complete the story. It paints and erases memories that I should have had. It recreates imageries for me and then I banish them. In the process I am not grieving, I am still just finding the truth. I know that the Truth is Death. But I am still finding it.. meaninglessly, haplessly.
My grieving is not complete. I need to complete it or else I will agonize over this for the rest of my life. It is my father we are talking about and not an accident on Ring Road. I need to know what happened. Breathe was sucked out of the man who gave me wings to fly and I was not even there to thank him for all he did for me. I did not say my last goodbye before they lifted the gurney. I did not see him being put in a morgue. I did not see him being taken to the cremation ground.I did not look at him one last time before the pyre was set to fire. He was all ashes by the time I arrived. My memory of my Dad is frozen to Sept 12, 2009 when he waved good bye to me at SFO security gates. I know it was just a soul less body but I should have seen it. I should have been home when he left. I should have. And I will never forgive myself for that.
What is humorous is that these bold claims are coming from the same me who had no courage to hug her Mom this morning and shed a tear in his memory together with her. Instead I escaped that moment and I am grieving now, by myself, in this moving bus as I prepare for a long day at work.
In hindsight, whatever happens, happens for the best. He wanted it this way. He knew I could not have it any other way.
I don’t like the phrase death anniversary. Today I will celebrate the liberation of his soul