My parents had lived an extremely ordinary life.
My father’s death, hastened my discovery of extraordinary in the ordinary. My mother who I had considered a ‘zero’ all my life had suddenly transformed herself into my new ‘hero’.
My mother, the eldest of four children, was born to my grandmother after three miscarriages. Her family lived in a small industrial town, Ludhiana, before independence. She often described herself as her mother’s pet, a pampered, lazy, irresponsible brat who was an introvert and had never ever taken any kind of responsibility in her life. She married my father, who was an honest, loving man, who took his responsibility of being a breadwinner very seriously. He worked till the ripe age of seventy-four, taking care of all the financial responsibilities of our house. Since he had lost his mother at a tender age of two, for him family was very important.
I returned back to India in 2009, nine years ago from Czech Republic. Unfortunately a week after, I returned, he lost his balance and fell on the bathroom floor.
During these nine years he suffered from various chronic illnesses like epilepsy, paralysis, a heart problem and alzheimer’s. He was never the same again, he lost his freedom as his body did not support him for him to work again. A confident, independent man was transformed into a dependent and sad man. His illness had become his disability and he felt useless and unaccomplished. He had become my mother’s third baby, who needed special assistance and she cared for dad with love and understanding till his last breath, carrying all, small and big responsibilities with immense grace. Nine long years of love… sadness… worry… unhappiness… tears… decision… last few breathes… good byes.
Today, I recollect the two conversations between my mother and my father five hours before his death and other one between me and my mother, thirty minutes before my father’s death.
First Conversation: Sitting in his wheelchair, my dad looked up at my mother and exclaimed,
“I have done all. I have sired children and have beautiful three grand-children, and made them independent, what do I do now?”
This simple question, “What do I do now?” spoke volumes, about how desperately my father was looking for the meaning of his existence. This question, was answered by my mother with so much of love, wisdom, ease, commitment to see him comfortable and calmness.
She pointed at the white birds flying up in the sky and said calmly,
“Give yourself permission to let-go of all your duties, responsibilities and fly freely like those white birds. Feel the freedom and peace, love and joy. I love you and I am at peace with you and myself. You have fulfilled all my expectations.”
Her simple, honest words echoed wisdom of lifetimes. Her love, acceptance, calmness, patience and gentleness gave her strength to surrender, let go and release my dad.
Letting him go
Second conversation: Mom sadly spoke,
“Anu, Is there any way we can end his misery? Can we inject him, to end his life? I love your father too much, to see him undergo so much pain”
I remember how each word pricked my soul. I could have very easily misunderstood her intentions, had I not reminded myself of how selflessly she had taken care of him for nine long years. She had been his pillar of support and strength. Her tender care and love, and her constant encouragement had kept him alive. She had taken care of him, without any complains or crying. Today, the same lady was praying for her husband’s safe and peaceful exit. She was prepared to let him to go after fifty-two years of companionship. Her heartfelt prayers were heard by God, for my father, passed away peacefully thirty minutes after this very difficult conversation.
My assumptions about my mother had compelled me to label her as a weak person throughout my life. On the last day of my dad’s life , I went through a roller coaster of emotions, the downside was I had lost my dad, but the upside was I had gained my new hero, my mother. My heart was filled with gratitude.
I understood that day that, this world is full of unsung heroes who have lived very ordinary lives, yet when faced with adversities and challenges, have exhibited extraordinary bravery, positive attitude, flexibility and courage that has motivated and inspired others. Their simple actions have created empowering histories and lessons. They have truly transformed imperfection to perfection and ordinary to extraordinary.
The three C’s – namely courage, calmness and confidence with which she dealt with the situation on the last day, transformed her into my hero.
My mother is one of those invisible heroes.