I extend my hand to stroke her forehead, gently pushing the stray strands of hair away from her face. I stroke her hair, speaking softly to her as I do so. But, I know, nothing that I do will give her any comfort anymore. These are but her last moments; it’s just a matter of time before she leaves the world forever. Leaves the suffering forever.
I keep stroking her forehead, hoping she drifts off into a peaceful sleep and enjoys some moments free of pain. And, all this while, as I stand there by her bedside, watching her slip away, I feel bombarded by memories of our past – her and mine. Memories sweet and sour. Mostly sour. Her domineering nature, her dreadful illness which sucked the life out of her… out of us. The constant fear that clung to the walls of my mind like a tenacious spiderweb. The strain that had become a constant companion, albeit an unwanted one, which refused to leave me in peace for more than a few moments.
It is incredible how, when the present demands our attention, our mind veers to our past, bringing forth memories which bring about a sense of dread; moments from a time we want wiped away for good. Try as I might, I am unable to bury the horrid times and bring forth the pleasant and joyous moments I experienced in her company. Her sense of humour, her culinary expertise, her ability to enjoy whatever life dished up for her, her innate love for all the good things she could experience and enjoy…why don’t I remember these?
It will be a year since she passed away, yet it feels like just yesterday that she was here, with us. The past seventeen years that I spent with her seem unreal, as if they weren’t a part of my life! Every moment, every word uttered has of course become etched in my mind, and yet, as I turn around to look at them closely, the collective memories of that past seem foggy. Or is it that I dreaded that period so much so, that I am unconsciously trying to erase it from my memory? I do feel guilty making these confessions, but then, I am just a human!
Rest in peace, Ma-in-law. I hope we did our best for you.