When I was a little girl, I believed death was something which happened to old or sick people. It wasn’t something which happened to our those close to us and who we loved. I was so very wrong.
We were a happy middle class family: my parents, grandparents, my elder sister and I. My father, a government employee; my mother, a dedicated housewife; my sister was studying in second year of college, and I was a student of 5th grade.
My sister and I shared a room. That night she woke me up at around 3am, asking me to get my parents. She had a very severe headache. I did. My parents came running. They didn’t know what to do, they gave her pain killers, applied balm. Then she told them she wanted to go to the washroom. But she couldn’t even walk properly. Yet, somehow she made it back to the bed.
Then she said, “I think I am dying…” I giggled, because I thought she was joking, she wasn’t old or sick. And definitely people didn’t die of a headache, she would be just fine. I decided I would scold her later for saying such silly things. But that was the last thing she ever said.
After about 10 minutes, she opened her eyes and looked around as if she couldn’t see anything. Then she started gasping for breath. My father went to get a doctor who lived close to our house. He came over, checked her and suggested we took her to hospital.
My parents took my sister to hospital in the doctor’s car. I waited at home, not knowing what to do. I completed my morning routines and waited on the terrace for them to come back. Those were the days when there was no mobile, and we didn’t have a phone at home either.
After a long wait, a car came pulled up outside our gate. My mother stepped out. She was crying. I had never seen my mother cry before that. My father also came out. But my sister wasn’t there. I went running downstairs to ask them where my sister was.
That’s when my father told me, ‘Your akka (elder sister) will never come back.”
I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t know how I was supposed to react to it. I was numb. It was the sight of my mother crying which I couldn’t bear. Someone whom I had believed to be super-strong was breaking down before my eyes.
After a while, an ambulance came carrying her body. It was hard to believe that someone who was talking just a while ago was now all cold. It wasn’t her anymore. She wasn’t there. What she had left behind seemed unfamiliar to me.
My father informed all our relatives, my sister’s college, her former school, that my sister had died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage. People thronged our house. So many wanting to know what had happened. Some came with sympathy. Some with curiosity. And my mother had to repeat the same old story of what had happened over and over again.
How the day went by, I know not. It seemed like a stupid dream which didn’t seem to end. After a week, I resumed school, as there was no point sitting at home, mourning. When I was on my way back to the house in the bus, I was convinced that now the bad dream would end, and my sister would be at home to share that day’s happenings with me. I reached home, but she wasn’t there.
I missed my best friend and playmate. I was close to her, we shared all kinds of secrets. Of course we had our fights, too. We were seven years apart but of late, we had grown closer to each other. She was my advisor, she was my go-to person for all the silly doubts this little girl had.
I felt angry with the whole world. I felt angry with the hospital and doctors who couldn’t save her. I felt angry with the people who came to express their sympathy. I almost wanted to tell them not to come, for they were only made us live our pain all over again by making us repeat the proceedings of a haunting night. She had left a void in our life. And it wasn’t going to matter to them anyway. I felt angry with God for not giving her a chance to live her dreams. She was excitedly looking forward to the college trip she had to embark on the next day. She couldn’t enjoy that.
I wished it was me who had died instead.
It took a lot of time to get used to her absence. To learn to live life without her. To come to terms with life and death. To realise that death is much closer to us than we think.
Suddenly it seemed I had grown much older, much wiser. I became more sensitive to my mother’s feelings. I would always try not to hurt her. I would understand her little anxieties. I felt sorry for my parents. I realised that the pain they felt be far exceeding the pain I felt, because they had raised her from a little baby. They were supposed to protect her. But they couldn’t.
I had known her only for 10 years. But there had never been a day in my life, when she hadn’t been in it. And now she would never be there again.
Almost 30 years have gone by since that fateful day. Now it doesn’t hurt anymore. Now I understand that nature has her own mysterious ways of working. That everything isn’t in my control. All that I can choose is the way I react to every situation. Now I am able accept God’s plan more willingly.