We’ve lost and we’re drowning.
The only thing I can think to do is decide how inappropriate it is for the bed to be surrounded by ‘Get Well Soon’ cards. One of them smugly asks ‘Not feeling well are we?’ My anger is unleashed on these sentimental pieces of card as I lay them down more violently than they deserve.
She lies there.
I listen to my father sobbing. There’s something so open about the way he cries. He doesn’t cry to keep it in, he doesn’t cry to garner attention. He simply weeps openly and earnestly. I want to crush him with cuddles. My sister is silent, catatonic. The undertaker’s phone is busy. I lose the ability to remember the word ‘undertaker’ for ten minutes, managing only a terse ‘those funeral guys.’ I dispatch myself upstairs as the privacy circle decreases and streams of visitors arrive to witness the parade, the pedestal, the stillness.
She lies there.
I sit upstairs, dispatching gallows humour on twitter and email because I don’t know what else to do, feel no space to show emotions and younger siblings to care for. I sit on the stairs, occasionally wading downstairs to ensure tempers are in check. Eventually, the undertaker is sourced and after a long hour, he arrives with a stretcher. We wait in the landing for the body bag to emerge. I get shunted into the downstairs toilet, a strange place to witness my mother’s final exit from the home she made for over quartet of a century.
Everywhere has her touch, every carpet inch has her imprint. The decorations, the wallpaper, the choice of having Ganesha iconography over photography on the walls – these are all choices she has made and we must adhere to them in her memory.
I close the door on her hospital bed, trapping the spectre in there. Alone upstairs as I flick through channels desperate to find things to make me laugh, I can hear her muffled voice calling me from the kitchen, that nasal banshee call of her’s. It’s not there, I know it’s not.
I understand the next day when food starts arriving from caring well-wishers. Each one, I take a fresh spoon and sample to see if it tastes anything like what I’m used to. The familiar critiques, ‘not enough salt, not enough richness, not enough chilli’ all make sense to me. My mum’s food, so visceral in my mind, is now lost to me. Her specialities like paneer shaak, Christmas chicken, kebabs, theplas only exist in my memory because much as the menu item can be replicated, it’ll never ever taste how it should ever again.