A strange thing happened. On Friday, last week, I shared a poem that I wrote about visiting my bapuji’s body in the morgue. On Saturday, I was visiting my ba’s body. When someone dies, I always find myself reaching out into a world that I otherwise think is hokey. Though I didn’t find out until the next day, I was randomly thinking about my grandparents as Ba was taken into hospital on Friday: was that the universe telling me that I should have phoned home to talk to her before it was too late? If so – the universe really needs to shout louder, maybe stamp her feet a little, because I was well and truly too late.
The loss of a grandparent is weird because it is an expected pain. I imagine losing a partner or a sibling must feel like losing a limb, but when an elderly person dies it is never a surprise. I have been preparing myself for Ba to die since I was a teenager, but that didn’t stop me breaking down the last time I saw her face before the coffin lid was shut. I feel a little uncomfortable blogging about this, but ultimately this blog is supposed to document culture and identity and Ba is a huge part of the woman I am. When I think about the lady she was, the journeys she made, and the people she loved in every corner of the world, I feel overwhelmed. I think of how I feel about family members in faraway countries who I have met only a handful of times and I know it was her who taught me how to love like that. Seeing my great aunt and uncle partaking in the funeral prayers from the other end of a computer screen because they were unable to fly over from America made me weep for their loss and mine, but also because I felt so lucky to be part of such a loving group of people. I felt so lucky to belong.
It is when I think about my grandparents that it really hits me that had things gone a different way, I could have grown up somewhere completely different - speaking a different language, wearing different clothes - or perhaps I would never have been born at all. Ba used to tell me about the village she grew up in, and how her mother worked hard to send her and her siblings to school. When she was fourteen she took a boat to Kenya to marry Bapuji and that is where my father was born. In turn, when Dad was fourteen, the family moved to England where they have lived since. I think back to what I was like at the age of fourteen, and I wonder if any of the things I did, any of the decisions I made, will influence the lives of my children. When I first thought about blogging, I wanted to write a family history blog, documenting the stories that my mother, aunties, and grandmothers have told me and now I feel like incorporating some of those themes into this blog. Perhaps in some of my future posts I will tell you more about my ba and the adventures she had. They deserve to be heard.
My ba adored her husband. When he died and we took her to visit him she cradled his head, kissed his cheeks, and pulled back his eyelids in desperate hope that he would still be there. She murmured his name over and over and over. Every day after she would tell us about how all she prayed for was the day that he would take her up into his arms, because she truly believed that they would be together again. When I think about them, and when I think about the man I love, I can’t help but hope that I am wrong about everything. That after death, there is more. Come on universe, prove me wrong.
|You can read Ruch's post about Ba here.|