12:20 AM, July 11: He opened his eyes for the first time after weeks to look at everyone in the room – his kids and his grandchildren. A tear rolled down his cheek, as they began to kiss him on the cheek one by one. They thought he was healing and the new medicine was beginning to work, but he was the only one who knew what was happening at that moment – he struggled to take one more breath, but he couldn’t make it through – it was almost his last. That’s when they began to know too. His sister just came in from a different city and was frantically pacing up the stairs, when she heard the cries from the room and ran to find her brother with wide open eyes and a chest that didn’t seem to show any movement. She pleaded him to wake up, and all he let out was one last tear.
My grandfather – my dad’s dad – passed away at that moment.
He lived for only 73 years, but a period marked with several ups and downs. The last 6 being one of the worst ways to spend your last years. He was diagnosed with dementia, and with every passing day, began to lose touch with his memories, his people, his senses and himself. And it mentally killed all of us to see him that way. Every day a struggle, every day a battle – from forgetting his own children’s names, to being able to only remember how to curse, to not being able to walk, and eventually eat, to merely yelling out loud to eventually not saying a word, to becoming bedridden and not even being able to breathe without the help of a device, it was incredibly hard to see him that way. What was the point of life, was what I thought for the longest time. And even on the day of his death, the way he was struggling to literally just breathe for survival was too hard to digest – every breath taken in slowly with a loud sound, with his lungs making sounds of their own and his throat choking every now and then because he was using it primarily to breathe. He wasn’t able to eat, drink or do anything. ‘What was the point of life, wouldn’t he be happier if he was at eternal rest instead of fighting a battle that we’re not going to be able to fight?’ was what I thought even at that moment.
God answered my question, and took him away from all of us.
I thought it’d be easier to see him that way, instead of struggling. I didn’t even cry when it happened in front of me – maybe I wasn’t processing things fast enough. But when they lay him on the floor a few hours later, I couldn’t take it. The tears would not stop.
He was barely made of anything but bones. He looked so weak, as though all the energy a person could ever have was sucked away. And that’s exactly what happened over the past few years. His whole struggle flashed in front of me like a tape that would not stop rolling, and I could not stop the tears. But the only thing that gave us all the strength to pseudo accept the hit of reality, was the peace he had. For the first time in years, he was at peace and he looked like he was in peace. He was beautiful, with his hands on his stomach, his arms at rest without any sort of needles pricking him and injecting all sorts of medicines, his forehead without any creases, and his eyes closed with a slight smile, as if he was in the middle of a good dream.
It was still hard though, and we all sat by him for hours mourning. Everyone had their reasons. Mine were essentially three – his struggle flashing in front of me and me thinking about how unjust it was, the fact that I couldn’t get to know him when he was healthy and mostly, thinking about the emotional battle my dad was fighting.
Just the way my hero is my dad, his hero was his. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to know my hero’s hero when I could’ve because I hadn’t moved to India yet when he was okay, and when I did, it was partially my fault for not getting to know him well for the few years he was. But every now and then, my dad would tell me stories about his dad – all those implicit lessons he taught him about life, all the struggles he had been through and everything he had done for other people. And lately, I’ve heard so many more stories that I wish I had earlier. My thathagaru was a great, great man. He helped so many families out of trouble, did all he could to support his family while he was at a stage in life where they were essentially on the streets, and went out of his way to stop things like domestic abuse. He raised his kids right, and this clearly shows in the pure man my dad is, with absolutely no bias. The respect my grandpa had, and the number of people who came to visit the day of his death shows just the same. I wish I knew him better, but some wishes really can’t be met.
The rest of the day was full of more cries. We fell in line with the rest of the proceedings according to the traditional Hindu style, Antima Sanskar or the last sacrifice. Watching my dad watch his dad be taken downstairs, giving him a bath, placing him on the wood to be taken to the graveyard to be burnt into ashes eventually, was heartbreaking.
Because my dad’s dad to my dad is the way my dad is to me, and I could not ever imagine the pain he was going through.
It’s day 3 according to the Telugu calendar, and we’re doing better now. We’re beginning to accept what had happened, although I really don’t understand why he received the punishment he got. Yes, he had his own share of mistakes that caused certain people harm, but he was so much more than that. He didn’t deserve it, no one does. But sometimes, that’s life for you, and things are unfair. Sometimes, I feel like I can fix things and life can be all piece perfect if you want it to be. But this first death that I’ve ever experienced in my family taught me otherwise. And that’s another something to think about, all in itself.
But this little thought cloud or blurb is a tribute to the man he was and the memory we all have of him.
Thathagaru, I hope I can bring about the change you brought to the people around you one day. Thank you for giving my dad to me, and everything you’ve ever given him. I wish I got to know you better, but I promise to learn new things about you every time I can from the memories and lessons you’ve taught my dad. The battle you fought wasn’t an ordinary one; you were a real warrior. Rest in peace thathagaru, I hope you find your way and place with God, we love you.