When I think of December last year I can vividly recall the sense of helplessness and darkness that pervaded the atmosphere. But I wouldn’t be doing justice to the period if I didn’t also mention some very nice things that also happened in that same span of time.
For one, having no close family anywhere, it was a godsend to have the friendly aunty living in the opposite building drop by and offer to help us. She is herself in her 80s and is a former nurse. By then, the nurse we had hired left us in the lurch after pocketing the money.
This aunty would bring cooked food for us and juices for mom. And her presence helped us see through some really gloomy times. She would also offer to help take care of my then immobile mom. She would come in the evening and recite the scriptures to mom. It was one of the sweetest gestures ever. This aunty is frail and lives alone; she probably wasn’t in the best of health herself and yet she offered to help. She helped reinstate my faith in goodness and humanity.
It was fitting then that this aunt recited the prayers to mom as she lay dying, mom’s haunting eyes looking at us yet not seeing us, her sight directed towards the unseen.
Looking back I realise we were so little prepared for anything: the hospitalisation, the challenges of tending for a supine patient, the arrogance of doctors and nurses, everything. Later, after she died we were equally at sea with respect to the rituals.
Our neighbours did pitch in at evey stage and I have no clue how to ever repay them. I still get overwhelmed when I remember the gesture of my upstairs neighbour bringing me rice pudding on my birthday (something my mom made for me every year unfailingly). By then mom was too unwell to even respond. But somewhere I still feel that it must have made her infinitely sad that someone else was doing something she religiously did every year.