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.