ஒரு கதை என்றும் முடியலாம்
முடிவிலும் ஒன்று தொடரலாம்
Relationships are continuing story,
Feelings are short story,
One story may end anytime,
While the end might lead to another one,
Hereafter everything is filled with happiness.
I’m in the early stages of grieving with rawness at my fingertips as I write this panegyric in devotion to my dearly departed mother. Dunes of emotions dominate my psyche somewhere between howling anger and stunned silence. I could easily exhaust adjectives to describe my feelings — since my mother’s passing. Not even the lapse of time will numb how horrible I currently feel. The killing of my father exactly 30 years ago remains a key moment in the shared history between my mother and me. However, her personal struggles as a young widow at the age of 44 up until the last stages of her life — represents a flickering spark of humanity in a world that had gone dark on her ever since the tragic death of her husband — my father.
My mom, Indrany Ratnavel said adieu unexpectedly, but permanently on March 27, 2018. She was born in Point Pedro, Sri Lanka, and called Toronto, Canada home for the last 29 years. My dad’s death — on April 21, 1988 was, and always has been the defining moment of her life. Triggers of my father and happier days were everywhere. Without fail, a deep ache followed, which tormented her for 30 years till her last breath.
Despite the pain in her heart and nightmares that played in her head on a loop with clockwork predictability, she did her best to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life by making and retaining friendships. Somewhere in this tragic epoch she embraced life for what it represented. As a son, it was heart-wrenching and heart-warming for me to see. Her hopes and dreams were recognizably human. She was primal in every thought and movement as she attempted to rise each day and put one step in front of another. Her strength was equal only to her heart that beat.
I remember her as an elegant, stylish young mom in her days. She liked great clothes, jewelries and handbags — to enhance her stunning look. Always draped in beautiful sarees and neatly combed hair. She was the epitome of style and had exquisite taste. She liked cooking delicious meals and stitching stylish clothes for family and friends, like most Tamil ladies of her generation — it was ‘The Mom Thing.’ She enjoyed travelling faraway places to see family — especially for important occasions like weddings. It was much-needed prosthetic to her amputated soul.
My feeble and desperate attempts on that fatal day to give life to the woman who gave life to me by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was to no avail. As I stood there feeling suffocated over her lifeless body in the hallway near her bedroom of her home in Toronto around 2:45 a.m., our shared activities in their loving and tender nature played in my mind like a slideshow. It was déjà vu played backwards and I was nostalgic for a past I hadn’t quite let go yet. Fleeting memories I tried desperately to recall. Our conversations were a constant noise in my ears — like an echo I no longer hear but swear I will never forget. A piece of me gone, my flesh and blood, my mother.
With every passing day, no matter the sadness inside me, no matter the pain in my heart, there are many memorable moments of mom. Her mischievous smile, and the extraordinary display of strength I saw in her as a little boy and as a grown man, helps me to breathe, helps me to smile, helps me to be grateful for having had her in my life for 48 years. I want to remember her for how she took great care of me when I was growing up in war-torn Sri Lanka, and subsequently how I took care of her since she arrived in peaceful Canada in 1989. I did all that I could to give her a life of dignity and aplomb. Perhaps in time this can offer some solace.
Though I’m absolutely gutted — but relieved that I was there with her during her last moments and her passing was peaceful and painless. This forever will be etched in my memory. I will cherish it — but, differently. I want to remember and honor her memory by helping organizations that strive to help people like her who are constantly suffering from such terrible mental anguish. We both deserve that. Selfishly, it is also a daily salve for my red and angry wounds.
My mother is no longer, and she has been relieved of all her anguish — but many Tamils are still suffering from mental health issues. They struggle with mood or anxiety disorders or other afflictions of the mind like — post-traumatic stress disorder. They have inherited this mostly from the terrible effects of war in Sri Lanka — terrorized and traumatized. Mental health issues must be destigmatized. This is a major problem — especially in Tamil community. Those who are struggling with mental health obstacles and afraid or reluctant to seek help because of the stigma. It must stop. Mental health should be a priority and part of wellness care of our community.
Just as tragically, most people who are mentally ill are far more likely to be ignored by their own family and friends. I encourage you donate to or volunteer with Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) or similar venerable organizations across the world. At the very least show some empathy for their struggle — and take the time to say few kind words to them. Such gestures can be a symbol of a welcome cultural shift in how we as Tamils approach this debilitating health issue that we have for far too long ignored as a community.
Title of this tribute “Don’t cry because it’s over” is from Dr. Seuss quote that I love, and I thought it is apt. The quote ends with “Smile because it happened.” I smile because my mom happened to me in my life.
The most a person can say about his or her life is, “I was here! I mattered!” Well, goodness knows, my mom was here, and she mattered so much to me — despite her mental afflictions.