20. Aftermath of a Life Unrealised

Silently returning from the cemetery and in the ways of our tradition, I stopped at the front of our home to *cleanse.  Then I went indoors and I bathed before I could settle myself to rest.  My mother, my wife, my sisters and the other family women were already in the house preparing for our evening.

We are sitting in the living room – just looking at one another or blankly into some space on the wall or the floor, it didn’t matter.  And the tea that was served didn’t taste the same.  There was nothing much to say and I for one couldn’t.

In the early evening the pundit came to perform the puja.  We all prayed together for our baby, our son, my angel, asking God to keep him safe and close to Him.

The next day Hemma’s father came to my house and declared he had come to take his daughter home with him; that they would take care of her there.  I asked my wife if this is what she wanted and she said, “Yes.”

She then asked me to go with her.  I couldn’t, I could not even imagine going over there with them.  I did want my wife, I needed her to stay here with me.  This was our home.  She left that same day.  

I was sure we needed each other to try and bring a sense of comfort in this shared broken-hearted pain, to mourn together but no, it seemed she needed to go back to her father and mother, to their home.  I didn’t know if there was a right or wrong in this event; I tried to understand but it was really all too much.

Weeks passed, I was feeling heavy-hearted and I thought many times how my wife must be getting on.  Although I had all the blessed love and support of my dear family, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being all alone.  I couldn’t bring myself to go anywhere, much less out of my room, not even to work.  

One weekend it happened that Noori came down to the house to see how the family was getting on.  I know she had clues from her best friend, my little sister.  I suppose Noori thought she ought to wait a while before coming over.  I know she wanted to see for herself how Gary was doing.  Perhaps she also thought Hemma may return …

She went straight into the kitchen and prepared tea for the family.  Then she brought a cup into my room for me.  No one seemed to mind that we stayed in the room for long hours, just talking.  My mother knew this was more helpful at this point than anything else.  

Noori reminded me of her promise; that she’d be around for me in case of emergency, and if ever I needed a different ear that would listen.  She said, “I am here to share your grief, your pain and I’ll come as often as I can so you can always use my shoulder to cry on.”

This girl helped me so much just by being there for me.  I was able to breathe again as I had someone to talk with, like a best friend who provided for me a way to express my feelings without reserve, about my child and how I was feeling with regard to the rest of my world.

We were getting closer and I was comfortable now with my support network.  Everything happened so fast!

One day Hemma sent her two courier pigeons my way with a note.  The message basically was an ultimatum which stated that if I wanted her back in my life, I would have to move into her family’s house.  

Otherwise she’d never come back to me.  Why oh why did I have a feeling this wasn’t my wife’s voice in these words?  What a sticky situation and what a demand!

Unimaginable!  No, no and still, no!

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*cleanse    – it is in our tradition when immediate family and the close relatives return from a funeral to the home we must first approach the basin of water which has been set-up next to a smoldering fire outside the house.  A mango leaf is in it.  

We take the leaf, dipping into the blessed water, sprinkling it upon ourselves 3 times and then turn to the smoke of the fire, bringing the smoke towards ourselves in a blessing sort of way; like it’s preventing any unwelcome whatever from the funeral location.  Then bathing and fresh clothes follow.

19. There Are No Words …

I know there are countless souls out there who empathize with the loss of a loved one, a child, perhaps your child; and with all my heart, I am so very sorry.

So I know you get it when I say there really are no words to express how you and I are feeling and every set of circumstances surrounding our loss keeps it impossible to compare … but we can try at some point to share at the very least.  I’m at that point now.

I’m going to go forward presently because I have not spoke of this in any depth for more than a half century.  It is like it has just happened, now that I bring it to the surface.

Once back at the house, my son’s wrapped remains are gently and lovingly placed in the middle of our living room.  Here also we had laid my nana and my father.  The pundit commenced with the puja and the traditional rituals for the dead.  The process of saying good night my sweet angel was underway.  Deep breaths; this continued well into the night.

In the morning it was time to take our baby to the *burial ground.  As practiced at the time in our Hindu culture **only men were allowed to cremate or bury a body.  Women were not permitted by tradition to even be present; yes, regardless if the departed was female or male.

We took my son to the Vatuwaqa Cemetery.  It sat on a hill overlooking the sea.  The grief, the heartbreak, the suspended state in which there’s nothing but disbelief, and it’s all too real.  There we were.

My maternal uncle, the very same whose shop I used to sell my kites in, had said many comforting words including something about squaring up a debt, in attempt to make it easier to accept.  Of course none could dispel any of the pain, I just couldn’t seem to get that boulder off of my heart and I do not remember even trying to.

But his words which resounded through my tears and heartache, remaining with me through all these years were, “He is a very pure soul so never worry for him.  He has returned home to heaven.” 

I won’t even try to put into words which can be so awkward, what it felt like when I laid him down directly into the earth, swaddled in the wrapped blanket.  There is no casket.  I then placed a handful of marigolds and white carnations upon his little body.

The immediate family members followed suit and then I began to cover him with the soil of Fiji.  The soil of my mother’s birthplace, of my birthplace, the place of my son’s birth …and now his body’s permanent resting place.

Not loud enough for anyone but my son I said, ‘Go my son, you are free now.’  Today and everyday since he passed back in 1955, I have kept him in that quiet, blissful place of my heart knowing full well that in there, he cannot be taken from me ever again.

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*burial ground   in the ways of Hindu religion, most all deceased are cremated.  I won’t get into the details of this subject but just to assist in the understanding as is relative to what LBM is saying: But not so in the case of young ones, they are buried.

Up to what age where this no longer applies is variable but usually not past three or four.  It is believed that a person so young has not made the attachment to the body which an older person would have, therefore Aatma Ram! (the soul) didn’t need purification, which is the duty of the 🔥.

**only men were allowed    over the recent years, this tradition seems to have lost the strictness of men only and now more often than not, women are present.  However it still comes down to men only at the actual point of cremation.