Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Matters of the heart

On Saturday, as I was feeding KB his cereal, my brother called me. I didn't know it was him, but since I could not really talk then, I let it go to the answering machine. I suddenly heard his voice, crying, as he began his message. Those moments are the worst. You wonder what happened and your mind races into all kinds of fearful thoughts. I ran and grabbed the phone. He told me that one of our family friends had suddenly died of a heart attack. Now this is not someone we were actively in touch with. But whenever we all met up at weddings or functions, we talked to each other with that sense of familiarity and liberty that only comes with people who are part of your childhood. Both of us were feeling quite miserable about this news. I hung up with my brother and called out to B and asked him to continue feeding KB. KB would normally refuse but somehow he sensed that I was upset about something and allowed B to take over. I ran upstairs to call the wife of our friend who had passed away. She is one of the sweetest people I know and quite young too - it was heart breaking for me to think she would have to now get on with life without her husband. She has a good job so at least she will be very busy and that will help ease the pain. Nevertheless, this kind of void never goes away.

We (our family) used to stay in a large rented house when I was a little baby. Now, A, the person who passed away in what would be considered midlife in this modern day, has known me since I was a little baby. He had his own business and was a talented Mridangist who played for top artists in his time. He was so casual about it. After many years of not being in touch with him I had some email exchanges with him in 06. So really speaking we hardly had any contact with him directly. But to think he passed away was so painful for both me and my brother - we are the ones who were more in touch with all of them.

Sometimes you don't actively keep in touch with a person, don't think about them often. But when you do think about them, there is so much comfort in knowing they are there, a phone call away if you wanted to talk to them. Sadly, we often don't exercise it. And then they are gone. A sense of order in life is shaken up when the person suddenly is no more. A piece of your childhood is gone. It is not just him. I have had the misfortune of losing two very close friends - one to an impulsive act of anger and frustration a few years after his tumultuous marriage (he survived for a month and passed away), the other friend J, to a brain embolism. J was a physician herself and was supposed to go on her rounds at the research hospital she worked at - when she didn't show up - they went to her room to find her on the floor. She was my very close friend - I had lost touch with her for nearly two years. I thought of her so many many times, yet never picked up the phone to call her. One day I decided I just HAD to call her and looked her name up on the internet when it came up in a website for a funeral home. Everything matched to her name - but I could not believe it at all for I was in utter shock. J? J? J? I was shaking all over. I hit myself (not literally) a thousand times for not having been in touch with her. How could this have happened? She had died a year back and I didn't even know. She was an utterly brilliant student and the apple of her father's eye. The first child amongst three and she made her parents feel so proud of her. She went to top schools and excelled in whatever she took up. She used to tell me that her mother used to take her to so many classes when she was in school and that her life was so busy. She slogged all her life and just when her career had reached a point where she was reaping the fruits of her hard work, she was taken away from this world ruthlessly without warning. And the worst part, I didn't even know. I could not get in touch with any one in her family to know what had happened. No one picked up the phone or replied to my letter. Finally I wrote to her research advisor at the university where she was a fellow and he told me what had happened. Knowing what had happened is the best closure I could get. I never got a chance to tell her how much she meant to me.

Somehow now I feel nervous when I hear a voice breaking up on the answering machine - I fear the worst. Death is so final, an uncompromising phenomenon that those left behind have to contend with and have no choice in the matter. You are left with memories, you know you have to go on. Even in the worst of cases - mother, father, spouse, even the most cruelest of all, death of a child, people find ways to go on. Because they just have to. There is no choice in the matter. But each time I think of some of the people who have gone in the last five years or so, relatives or friends, I wish for one chance to talk to them again...knowing it will never be.

There is more fear in my system now that I am a mother of two children and am so deeply attached to my husband and children. I have forgotten how carefree I used to be as a student, not really thinking much about death. I used to drive between two states, alone, late at night never really afraid of what if I had an accident. Now I think of what my children will do without me and I am more careful about such things. I have now dealt with the loss that comes from losing close ones and I find myself fearing the loss of people I feel I can't even live without. I tell myself I should make more of an effort to be in frequent touch with people, but am also unable to live life thinking that a certain person might be gone, hence I should be in touch. You just take life in stride and you write when you feel like it. I am able to accept the death of people who have had a full life and passed away in the natural cycle that life is supposed to be. But when people die young somehow it is so hard to accept.

Many of you may have followed this news about the death of Tim Russert, the "Meet the press" anchor. He suddenly died of a heart attack. This is someone who could afford and got the best care needed to be in good health. And supposedly he did exercise and did his bit to maintain his health. And there is so much controversy now if his death could have been prevented had they used a defibrillator on time. And as I read this I think to myself that I don't even know how to use a defibrillator. If it is so important to administer it in time to save a life, I should take a CPR course and learn it. Because there are a couple of people I know who are diabetic, have high cholesterol and lead stressful lives. A part of me wants to be fatalistic and think, if this can happen to Tim Russert, it can happen to anyone. But statistics show otherwise. Proper and timely care especially in the cases of stroke and heart attacks have definitely saved lives.

The other day B went to drop off my niece at her college. On his way back he was stuck in traffic due to a seven vehicle collision on the freeway. It had happened just as he entered the freeway. Probably seconds after. He came home close to midnight. I was annoyed that he got stuck in the traffic delay but mostly I was just thankful he got home. It turned out the two people who died in that accident were rear passengers who had not worn their seat belts and had been ejected and thrown out on the freeway. Two lives lost thanks to not wearing a seat belt. Gives me the shivers if I think about how many of my own family members don't wear their seat belts just because they are sitting in the back seat.

What is the point of this post? I guess there is no real point. But the hope that at least when we read about such things, we will do what we can to prevent needless loss of life. For when a life is lost, it is impossible to get it back. And yes, what prompted this post was the death of our young friend to heart attack and the memories of a few other people I lost in recent years came flooding back. I shall stop here for every day matters beckon me now.

16 comments:

WaitingforSunshine said...

Hugs Noon.

Aditi's Album said...

A touching post. Yesterday I read about KB and KG's birth stories and was teary eyed when you mentioned how much you missed your dad at KG's birth. May their souls rest in peace.

Collection Of Stars said...

Noon, what can I say but that I understand having gone through this myself *Hugs*

DotThoughts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DotThoughts said...

my condolences to you and the family for having lost a friend. Motherhood changes so much. I used to take the subway in downtown philly at midnight, never worried I would be hurt. All that is changed now. I live under a certain shroud. I don't want to, but I do. I too remember some deaths. people in the news, someone I had not ven known. But they come to mind with striking regularity. Do you remember the contrator who was beheaded in Iraq a week before father's day? He had a Thai wife who could not speak english and a 10 yr old. Life is unfair.

Preethi said...

hugs noon.. may God give the young wife the strength to go on! I can so relate to your comment on the voice breaking on the answering machine. One late night phone call like this changed my life, I dread late night phone calls since then..

Mystic Margarita said...

My heart goes out to you and your family for having lost a friend. I pray that his wife has the strength to come to terns with this tragedy. Every time the phone rings late at night, my heart leaps up in fear. And at home, too, I always live in fear of something going wrong with R's health. And being a mother only adds to this fear because of the repercussions it would have on the child. Hugs, Noon.

Neera said...

I am sorry to hear about your friend's loss noonoo and pray to God for providing the strength to his family and friends.

This is such a thought provoking post. So many incidents of death coming to anyone anytime flash in my mind as I write this and mostly unnatural deaths. Each one furthers the fear in my heart. So many times I feel I should take a CPR class. I have no idea whatsoever, God forbid, if such a situation arises. But I do leave it to God. Don't we ourselves take good health for granted when we should be valuing it more than anything, exercising so that it stays that way - how many of us do? And then even that is not an insurance against the merciless finality thats death.

ranjani.sathish said...

A heavy post indeed and really makes you think how fragile life is.

ddmom said...

Very sorry to hear about the loss noon. Hope the family finds strength to move on.
This friend of mine whom I lost touch for just few months, one fine evening called to inform that her husband is no more. Her daughter and D are just 2 months apart. At that time, they were little over a year. It's more than 2 years now, she is still unable to get over it. I can completely understand and feel very very helpless. Shudder at the very thought when I put myself in her shoes. Sometimes it even makes me think if we should keep a little distance with the kids so they can learn to be more independant, and let them live with extended family every now and then. So, they feel that they can be loved by extended family as much as parents. Looks nice in theory, in reality I left D and Dlittle with my brother and SIL in a theme park for 20 minutes so that me and the husband can take a ride together. Ended up calling them on the phone 5 times..
Hugs!

Poppins said...

Oh that's so sad. I know what you mean about not being in touch because we're so "busy" and one fine day we find that life has taken them away. I feel so badly that we couldn't meet DH's thatha after we moved back to India. For no particular reason except that he said he would make it for Poppin's first birthday and we figured we could wait. Unfortunately, he couldn't come because he was feeling a bit low and then died soon after.

I felt horrible, because we hadn't seen him for over a year and he'd so badly wanted to see his great grand niece.

Just last night I was sobbing because I was scared of childbirth, silly of me, but I was just thinking that if something were to happen to me during childbirth, Poppin would be motherless. Such morose thoughts, that's how parenthood changes you.

noon said...

WfS, Aditi, CofS - Thanks...

Dottie - I know what you mean - I too have walked home late night or driven for five hours into the night and what not... I have always been obsessed about death - morbid jokes, serious talk about it etc - but I have never worried about what if I die really because I felt quite dispensable then...now with children...no way.
And also I never once thought about any one in my friends circle dying you know...now with two of them (one Indian, other non Indian) gone - both very young - it's like I suddenly get nervous if I think I have not kept in touch with someone for two years...
Life is beautiful sometimes and so unjust and unfair when you pause and look at the things good people go through...

Preethi - curious about what you have written...can you write about it?

MM - I know what you mean...I have to commend you for being strong when R was in the hospital...esp with a little baby it is not easy. But I do think it's a tough battle you have taming a workaholic to cut down on work and stress you know...but health is truly wealth..

Neera - well, we really should take care of our health for the sake of our children...I tell myself I shoudl exercise more regularly - but just not happening am ashamed to say...

Ranjani - yeah one just doesn't know what the next day holds...

DDmom - I feel terribly sorry for your friend...you know when I think of such situations - I just cannot imagine who to leave the kids with you know...meaning if we are not there for them who can give the same love and care? Just don't know...

Poppins - That's too bad - I know how you would have felt - wish you could have shown him his great grand niece...
And I know what you mean - I had fleeting thoughts (sobbing over it - kind of funny Poppy - cute! :) )
- movie like images in my head - me being rushed into labor and konking off etc etc in my head when it was close to delivery time - and I would think of KB and feel such a tug in my heart and immediately try to not think about all that...But don't worry - no such thing will happen - we will be emailing soon after delivery! :))

Preethi said...

Hope all is well, Come by blog have a tag for you which I think you will enjoy!

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

Hugs!! I totally fear midnight calls too. How we take things for granted! There are so many of my friends whom I keep thinking about and want to get back in touch, but keep putting it off! Some deaths are just not easy to forget...We cope somehow, but there are always moments when they come back to haunt memories!

dipali said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the recent losses you have suffered. Each such loss somehow leaves a vacant space within, that nothing can really fill.......
Noon, for me its early morning calls that are scary. My brother died very suddenly two years ago of a pulmonary embolism, and I was the one who had to tell our parents, who were living with me.(My husband was abroad at the time)
Although we know death is inevitable, these sudden, untimely deaths (especially when the parents survive their children) are so very painful.
Even though we often don't call or write, I guess the people with whom we have strong bonds don't even resent it. So many things we do for our own peace of mind.
May our Creator bless and protect all of His children....

Neera said...

Hey, how r u doing? Long time!! Hope its just the kids keeping u busy. Did KB's classes start?