There is a bereavement in the family. My husband’s elder brother’s wife J passed away last night. No, that’s not the only cause of my sadness.
Her husband had left earlier, three years ago. One of their daughters is married. The younger one, with whom J was living, is still in college. The girl is left without parents. Again, those are not the only reasons why I am feeling distraught.
Ever since her husband moved on, J and the girls have maintained a distance from the extended family. For reasons we could never understand, they never reached out; they were cordial when we approached them, but never forthcoming. It was as if they didn’t want to belong to this side of the connections.
J has been ailing for some time now, and I have been worried for her ever since Covid took mankind in its vicious grip. She fell under the ‘comorbidity’ segment and I had always hoped and prayed that she remained unharmed, for the sake of the young girl who so depended on her after her husband’s passing. Despite all the concerns I secretly harboured about her vulnerability, I believed she would pull through this Covid phase, because she supposedly was doing fairly OK despite her ailments. We had no information of any deterioration nor of any sudden change. All was well, we presumed.
Yes, we ‘presumed’ because the chasm between them and us had grown uneasily wide. There was no way to know for certain how ill or well she was. Things had slithered down to an ‘I am OK, you are OK’ status, and whatever little communication was left over infrequent calls skimmed only the surface. Like how most of our associations have turned out these days: so tenuous that it could break it into shards at a mere sigh.
It is hard to believe that our extended families can become vestiges of relationships. That we connect only in theory. That we don’t make conscious efforts to keep them intact. That we consider them dispensable. That together we don’t add up as units of a whole. That in many instances, we give primacy to petty things and stay detached.
I have been meaning to touch base with J for a while now. But what’s a plan worth if one can’t follow through with it?
I can’t say if it was the delicacy of reaching out or the compulsions and challenges in my own life back here that kept me from calling her. But the intention to call remained – unexecuted.
This morning when I received the news of her sudden passing, I was gutted. It took me through a warren of emotions. The lance of guilt stabbed me, the thought of the young girl melted me, the oddities of human relationships perplexed me, and the abruptness of life numbed me.
J had left before I could make that pending call to her. I sat down to get a handle on the news and took a few deep breaths. I gave myself a few minutes to gather my wits and sort my undulating thoughts. Going on a guilt trip does not help, I said to myself. Don’t beat yourself up. Do what needs to be done. Learn your lesson.
I let the turbulence inside settle on its own, without struggling to control it. Parallelly, I drew up a mental list of the people I have been intending to call, write or text since weeks and months. I flaked off all the excuses and reasons that I had taken refuge in for not doing it, and counselled myself –
Every once in a while, tell people in your life that you are thinking of them. That you love them. Unconditionally. The last thing you want to live with, Asha, is the weight of pending calls, mails, and text messages that will never get sent.
(P.S. Please share this note to all you know so that they don't have to live with the weight of a pending call.)