Love and Death, Life and Heartbreak

The most wretched thing about love is that it contradicts your expectations. You expect it to empower you; it makes you vulnerable. You expect it to give you happiness; it gives you more distress than you can bear. You expect to be able to define it; it makes you lose your ability to articulate. There is only one thing that is true about its character: It outlives people.

I saw my mother spiraling into depression after her sister died. My aunt was 26 years old. She went suddenly, without the slightest hint of a warning. My mother and her sister made plans to go shopping over the phone. The next morning I was awakened by my mother's terrifying screams. If I close my eyes and think back to that time, I can still hear her screaming, her body thrashing like a puppet, see her flinging things to the floor, breaking crystal vases, hurling books and clothes across the room, maddened, no, consumed with grief. She was not the same after that - not for a very long time. Eventually, she stopped hiding in different parts of the house. Gradually, her sobs gave way to a quiet melancholy while she listened to Lata's "Dil hoom hoom karay." Slowly, she stopped talking about her sister. But that is the only thing that has changed. She has simply stopped talking about her. The pain of losing her is still fresh. It is like a piece of missing skin that refuses to heal. There is only a thin scab on it, and sometimes without a warning, it is scraped off and blood oozes out in a shocking rivulet. 

Last summer, 22 years after my aunt's death, my mother and I were having tea in my living room. I was talking about my two younger sisters, particularly the middle one and how attached she is to my mother. My mother, being the middle of (now) three sisters could relate to it. 
"Mama, isn't it funny - I never thought of it like this, but we are three sisters and you are three sisters, too!" I said. I sipped my tea and only after a few seconds realized the mistake I had made. I froze with my cup in mid air. 
"I am so sorry," I said. "I...forgot about her."
She just looked at me for a long time. "We were four sisters. It's OK - you were only five when she died," she said and took her tea downstairs. She needed to be alone. The scab had come off.

Last week, we lost a brand new member of our family. Not even two months old, a beautiful baby girl went to heaven. I have not mustered the courage to speak to the bereaved mother yet, much younger than me, but immeasurably stronger. I have no words to comfort her. I know her love will never subside. This wound will never heal, and it will be a long time before she is able to look away from it, become cognizant of the fact she exists outside of this circle of grief. But for now, and for as long as she needs, she will stay inside a perimeter of pain, and no one can say anything that will matter. But there is another certainty, too. She will rise from her mourning, wake up slowly, and after the raw lesion scabs over, she will remember only love. When the thin brown skin rips off again, because it will many times over, she will be rescued by the love she shared with her daughter for only two months. It will get old with her, age as she ages, continue to survive and thrive long after her sweet baby girl is gone.

"O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away And the shadows eaten the moon."

W. B. YEATS, "Brown Penny"

Read about LOVE on Goll Gappay this month and relate incidents where you have witnessed or experienced it.