A nightlight in darkness
We were trying to give a bath to Michael. He was our mischievous boxer dog, and Sheri was too fond of him. He was not much interested in his cosmetics and would jump and thrash when we tried to give him the bath.
“Acha….hold tight!....He will jump”, she said
I was trying to shampoo his head and he boxed me with his head. That was his style. I slipped and fell down.
Sheri burst in to laughter..... A thousand tinkling bells.
I woke up in the middle of her laughter. It was darkness and took me some time to realize I was alone and in bed. God! Was it a dream!
It is more than a year since my daughter in law died and I have wept silently every day. Not a single day passes without remembering her. Though I know she is gone, I expect her to walk in the door at any moment and say "Acha..." I think she will call me and we will talk about our action plans at home …. None of this will happen, still.
Michael had left us suddenly one day and all our troubles started. Within few weeks, Sheri was taken ill.While Sheri was at the hospital,my wife had a heart attack... Do misfortunes flock together? We had planned everything for her recovery.... And that is another thing I learned now. To be prepared for unexpected turns in life.
She made people laugh and time flew when she was around. She was a born singer and was never hesitant. You just have to ask her, and she had a song ready for any occasion. Her laughter filled the room with all the unheard music and a warmth you never felt before. You could talk to her and she'll help you be at ease, she could change your bitterness, just being with her. Her love reflected God to me, even as I wonder if He really cared about her innocent child, our aching hearts and the endless tears of her parents. Her joy in the midst of circumstances, her hospitality in the face of illness and disability, her laughter in the wake of disappointment, offers me hope that eventually all of us could learn to behave like her.
Anyone who knew Sheri knew that her family was the center of her life. She brought together everyone in our family. She remembered the birthdays of each and everyone in the family and all of her friends, from the youngest to the oldest. And she never forgot to buy them gifts. She enjoyed in giving.
She would look at me with that coy smile of hers and say, “Oh Acha, you just worry way too much! “
“Acha” she would say,” I have sold 5 Kg of old magazines from Amma’s collection “
“Acha, I cleaned all the kitchen cupboards, and got rid of a dozen bottles from the store”
My wife was notoriously possessive about old magazines, empty bottles and tins; there was no space anywhere at home to keep them all. Sheri and I had entered a secret pact to get rid of as much as possible when my wife would come to stay with me. Sheri trusted me and would call me and give me daily reports of what all she could get rid of.
She will always be a part of my heart and soul. I will always miss her love, her smart and occasional funny remarks, her smile, the food she used to cook specially for me when I go home on vacations.
When a child dies, we lose our commonsense faith in life's predictability. The unanticipated early death cuts through what we have formerly assumed is a natural order of things, shaking the very foundations of our living. All we believed comes into question and we feel as if we have no ground to stand on. All our dreams and hopes are shattered. I had wished if I never existed.
How different this is from the sadness we feel when an older person dies. I remember the time when my mother died. I could understand her long struggle with her illness and accept that her departure had saved her from further sufferings. I reconciled with that truth easily. If she had lived a full life and died naturally, we may miss her, reminisce about all she meant to us, and perhaps wish that we had taken more time to appreciate her. We also come to acknowledge that life brings a series of losses, and we may even understand that they are somehow necessary, or at least part of everyone's experience. But the death of a young person attacks our understanding of life's rhythm and purpose, leaving us wandering in unmapped territories.
Nothing in life prepares you for the death of a child. After Sheri died a year ago, I examined and re-examined my existing values, beliefs and priorities. This process was made extremely challenging by the tearing pain of my early grief. I am a different person, and in many ways, a better person as a result of my struggle with her illness and death. I have also learned some important lessons about love, faith, and the enduring power of relationships.
Now I can understand the depth of the sadness and misery of her parents. If I feel about her this way, how could her own parents take it ! I feel ashamed at the ways I had occasionally thought about their reactions. Their pain is much worse than mine and is going to stay, no matter whatever others may say or do. It is the greatest of their losses.
When I look around, I can see others walking the same path. Even when the night is at its darkest, I can see streaks of light at distance. Our ability to see light in the midst of darkness will help us to survive in a world without the physical presence of the lost one. When we walk in awareness, we can develop our own unique insights that will help us during our journeys.
If we commit to working through the pain of our grief, that pain may transcend to unconditional love for others.
I will continue to weep, sometimes be angry, to mourn, and to draw strength from others who walk this same path.