First i need to take you back to may 4th. My dad’s birthday. Usually a happy occasion, people come over. We have Large, loud and late parties most years. This birthday was different. First of all, lockdown was at its peak. Everything was shut down. What did this mean for us? At the time, my Grandma who had had stage 4 cancer for a few months was on her deathbed. 4 years ago, we were told she had 2 years left. We got double the time that we expected. A blessing and a curse. We sat in the living room. My mum, my dad and I. My brother was upstairs, gaming. He was not fully aware of what was going on. In the living room we prayed. The three of us, in completely independent yet completely united prayer.
Our hopes were not high. We were not praying for her to get better, we were praying for her not to leave this earth on the same day 42 years after she brought my dad onto the earth. In the late hours of the night, I went up to bed and somehow managed to get to sleep.
Morning came, and with it came a sad reality. I walked to my parents’ room, already knowing what was about to be said, without even having heard it.
A tragic silence plagued the room, as I went to hug mum and dad. The look on my mum’s face i will never forget. It was the face of the deepest sadness, shock and loss. We spoke very little. Nothing needed to be said. I went back to my room and went back to bed, hoping to hide from reality. Hoping it was a dream.
Later that afternoon we prepared for the funeral , as it is tradition with Indian families for the funeral to happen within 24 hours of the passing. We all wore our head coverings, severely dreading the inevitable.
I watched my grandma’s body come home from the hospital on a zoom call
The ambulance reversed into the drive and her body was unloaded. Before she passed, she requested to be in her wedding outfit as she was cremated. I remember my mum telling me she still wanted to wear sunglasses on the way to the hospital, despite knowing that it would be her last visit.
She was carried into the living room, and the cloth around her head was
Removed. Then came a shock like nothing ive ever experienced. Both my parents burst out in grievance. My heart dropped. I left the room.
At that point I am told my auntie applied lipstick to my grandma. I had shutdown.
Not long later i was called downstairs again. Up until this point I had not shed a tear. However the funeral was taking place. She was wrapped in swaddling cloths, placed in the middle of a large stack of logs. I watched, in low quality as the internet connection was poor, my grandpa lit a torch, and then lit the fire. The fire was beautiful. Like nothing I had ever seen before. It was soulful. And danced with joy, stark contrast to the emotions that all people were filled with.
My dad said his final goodbye.
His mum, my grandmother and my auntie’s sister was no more than a pile of ashes.
At the time it did not have a huge impact on me. I didn’t address my feelings nor spend any waking minutes thinking about it. I was hiding.