That Last Night

That Last Night: Healing From Grief

21st January, 1997. A little over 8 pm. She was at a relative's place with her sister. They were playing with their cousins. Playing what, she knew not. For things seemed a bit hazy, dreamlike almost, ever since they took her mom to the hospital a little while ago. One hour, was it? Or two perhaps? She did not know. It was impossible to keep track of time in that dream.

Suddenly her uncle and aunt came in and said it was time for dinner. Dinner? But it's not even 9 yet! So early? She wanted to ask, but she couldn't find her voice in that dream. And so she ate, in silence. Ate what, she knew not. For things were still hazy. She was still slipping. Slipping in and out of reality...

She was in the kitchen, warming milk for her mom. It was a little over 5:30 pm. A doctor had just left after a "house call". He had examined her mom and advised her dad to admit her into a hospital the next morning if her "headache" didn't subside. She took the cup of milk to her mom. But her mom didn't remember now that she'd asked for it. The "elders" gathered around her mom asked her to leave the cup there. She did. And left the room.

"More chapati?" Her aunt was asking. She took one. And continued to eat. And dream...

She heard a deep moaning coming from her mom's room. It was the most frightening sound she'd ever heard. It numbed her very bones. She gathered all her courage and went inside. What she saw there was something she was never going to forget. Her mom's body was twisted up in a horrifyingly grotesque way. Her limbs contorted in crazy angles. Her eyes rolled right back into their sockets. While that guttural moaning continued.

She looked down at her plate. It was empty. She had finished eating. So had her sister. She couldn't remember if her cousins had eaten too. She was still not completely "there". She was still caught in that dreamy haze...

Someone told her to rub her mom's feet. She did it. It did not help. Someone tried to contact that doctor again. It was 1997. Pre-cellphone age. The doctor was still on his way to the clinic apparently. He could not be reached. Someone then decided it was time to take her mom to the hospital. So the "elders" wrapped her mom in blankets and carried her down the stairs, into the car. Who drove the car, she knew not. She and her sister were not in that car. They had been told to pack a night bag as they were going to spend that night at a relatives' place in their colony.

After dinner, her uncle suddenly announced that her dad had come to fetch her and her sister. Dad had come? But they'd been told to pack their night bag? Were they going home early then? Was her mom better already? Was she back home? The questions screamed inside her mind. But she was still trapped in that soundless dream. The dream that had started the morning of the previous day...

20th January, 1997. Around 7:30 am. She was having tea with her mom-dad, as usual. And they were teasing her mom, as usual, for having increased her sugar intake since she was diagnosed with diabetes. (Which wasn't true actually, 'coz she HAD cut down on sugar, but they still teased her, in the attempt to make her quit it completely.) Her mom was making her usual funny faces at them, which always made them laugh. Her sister had already left for school. Soon she could hear the honks of her friend's car from the street. That marked the arrival of her "home pick-up" for her computer classes. She left the house too.

Two hours later, when her friend dropped her back home, she saw a strange sight up in her balcony. A relative was standing there, along with a friend of her dad. That was a very unusual combination. They never visited at the same time. Even weirder was the fact that her dad was not with them. And both the "visitors" looked so unusually grave. She told her friend she wasn't going to sit for their usual chat in the car that day, and hurried upstairs. That was the beginning of that dream. A fuzzy recollection of people coming and going, of voices, odd snippets of conversations, some instructions, and a lot of fear.

Her dad had arrived. She and her sister were escorted to the car. Why wasn't anyone smiling as usual? She was in the car before she could ask. It was very crowded inside. Her dad was not driving. Who was driving, she knew not. She was sitting right behind the driver's seat. Her sister was sitting on dad's lap in the front passenger seat. Who else was there? Mom's sister? She'd probably been asked to come and help them. Who else? Dad's aunt? Why was she here? Why was she and her mom's sister sitting together in the same car? That was another very unusual combination. This was such a crazy dream. She didn't even bother to search for her voice now.

Oh wait. They took a wrong turn. This wasn't the way to their house. Were they going to the hospital then? Wasn't it beyond visiting hours? Suddenly she heard her sister's voice. "Where's mom?" She could not hear her dad's reply. She was sitting so far from them. And then her sister started shouting at her dad. "Where is mom? Why aren't you saying anything? Where is mom?" She heard someone crying then. It sounded like her dad. It couldn't be her dad. He never cried. Her sister was shouting yet again. "Nooooo! You're lying! It's not possible! You're lying!" And then the two "ladies" sitting in the back seat with her started crying too. This was ridiculous. Why were they all crying? And why was her sister shouting so much? This was a really stupid dream. She didn't want to be in it anymore.

They took another turn. Within the colony. But the hospital was out... in the town. Why were they going this way? They hadn't gone to their home. They weren't going to the hospital. So where the hell were they going?

She found out soon enough. The car pulled up outside her grandfather's house in the colony. Her mom's father. She couldn't understand why they were visiting her grandfather at this time of the night. She couldn't understand anything. It was all so dark and hazy.

It seemed like everybody was in mourning. Mourning the death of her mom. Her mom dead? How could that be? She was in the hospital. No she wasn't. She was lying there on the carpet, rolled in blankets. The same blankets she'd been wrapped in when they took her to the hospital. There was a lot of crying all around. She didn't like it. It was making her cry too. Why were they saying that her mom was dead? Didn't they realize that it was a hurtful thing to say to her? Couldn't they see that it was making her cry?

She was led into a bedroom at her grandfather's place. They were sleeping there that night. That was good. Finally, they were going to let her sleep in peace. She had to end this crazy dream. But it would end only when she woke up. And she couldn't wake up if she didn't sleep first. So she was glad she was allowed to sleep finally.

But the next morning didn't mark the end of her horrible dream. If anything, it became even more horrible. The events from that last night spilled over into the next day. And in magnified proportions. The strange gathering of people increased many times over. Her mom still lay on the carpet, rolled in those same blankets. The cryings continued, interspersed occasionally by some howling "drama queen". All that gloom rubbed off on her. She felt hollow inside. She was soon crying with the rest of them. Though she still hadn't found her voice for anything else.

Eventually they took her mom away. Before leaving, they told her to touch her mom's feet for her final blessings. But she couldn't do it. She didn't want to remember her mom as a cold, lifeless body. She wanted to remember her for her warm smiles. And those funny faces she made when they teased her.

Little did she know then, that "that last night with her mom" was going to remain etched on her memory forever. Little did she know then, that "that last night with her mom" was going to change her own life completely.

P.S.- This post was originally published by me, on my old blog, in April 2012, as a part of Blog-a-Ton 26, the 26th Edition of an online, prompt-based, writing competition of Bloggers. The topic for the month was 'That Last Night'. My post won the Gold BATOM (the first prize) that month.

And even though this post has been written as "fiction", it is all real... every word of it. My mom died of brain hemorrhage that night. Many years after her death, I found out that it might have been caused by brain aneurysm, a medical condition highly probable in people having both diabetes and high blood pressure.

Why did I write it as fiction then?

Well, I would have never been able to complete this post if I hadn't written it in third person. By pretending that it was all fiction, I was able to remain detached from the feelings, and yet was able to express them as they were.

This is the first time I participated in a Blog-a-Ton event. The topic gave me an opportunity to share "that last night with my mom" here, on my blog, and also allowed me to recover a part of myself that was apparently still trapped somewhere in that dark soundless dream.

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