Death

One minute they are there..and the next minute they are gone, snatched away, silenced for eternity. They would continue to live only in memories.

How is a wife supposed to come to terms with her husband’s death? How are parents, siblings and kids supposed to bear the pain and loss? Everyone would have gone through this emotion. The call which brings the news, the numbness that follows, the tears that flow down, the mind that refuses to believe. But yet, life goes on.

Today I heard the news that he is no more. RS – He was unwell for the last 1 year-diagnosed with Liver Cirrhosis. Just 47 then, lively, jovial, very helpful, very religious. A jaundice that would have not been treated completely and relapsed to destroy the liver-the doctors said. Treatment and life went on, in and out of hospitals. For a person who hates hospitals, loves food and hates to be restricted in bed, it is pure torture to get used to eating bland food and visiting hospitals. We all thought he would eventually get better. But the last couple of weeks the deterioration was faster than a sprinting cheetah.

I spoke to him just last month. He did not even like people calling and enquiring about his health. Maybe he knew he was going. Last 10 days he was again hospitalised-kidneys had begun failing, liver totally damaged, he was put on ventilator support. Doctors wanted his wife to sign the DNR papers (Do not resuscitate) last Sunday. I think it was done yesterday and the ventilator removed – the end came this morning. That is it. End of a life. Technically I think he was gone when he did not come out from sedation a few days back.

I lost my dad similarly. It was June 2004 and I was to get married the next month. My parents had agreed to our love marriage, but we both had decided that K will not convert to get married in church, instead have a Register Marriage and a reception thereafter for friends and family. My parents were ok with that, but my dad was a wee bit tensed as to how our relatives would take it. I still wonder why he had to be tensed for people who would not be part of our daily lives. It did not help that my dad’s family had a history of heart diseases and attacks. My sister had a love marriage too and my father relented only after my BIL agreed to convert to get married in church. That was 10years ago in 1994 and he had changed a lot for the better since then.

He was also worried of he and mom being alone, I was moving to Hyderabad and my elder sister was settled in the USA. I wish he was more open in his feelings towards us and spoke to us about his fears or discussed things in the open. I would have ensured him that going to live in another state/city did not mean that we would not take care of them. I would also have made him understand that his and mom’s blessings were the most important to us and if the extended family was not happy with the 2nd love marriage in our family – well, so be it, it was not important for us.

I remember the date, it was June 28th 2004-it was around 4pm on a saturday and I was just getting ready to leave office. I got a call from an unknown number and did not want to pick up the call. But I did and could hear a woman screaming. I could not even recognize my mom’s voice. She was screaming asking me to come over to MMM hospital and that she was taking dad there. She did not tell me anymore. I called back the number and it turned out to be a stranger’s number. He was a patient at our family doctor’s clinic and told me that the lady who used his phone came there in an auto with her husband who seemed like he had a heart attack and since it was a small clinic the doctor advised her to rush him to MMM hospital which was about 5 kms away. That was it!! Cold sweat broke out all over me…I was devastated!!! Dad! heart attack! mom all alone!

I do not know how I drove from my office to the hospital which was a good 20kms away. Thank God I did not bump my car into any other vehicle. I called K and told him whatever I knew. I called my mom’s closest friend and told her to come to the hospital. I called my closest cousin in Bangalore and told him about it. I drove like a zombie and reached the hospital under half an hour. There I saw my otherwise strong mom crying and screaming. Dad was in the ICU and doctors were trying to revive him. After half an hour which seemed like ages, doctors informed us that they had to give him “8 shocks” (defibrillator) to revive his heart, but he was brain dead. The lack of oxygen to his brain for those 10mins when he was being transported from the clinic near my house to the hospital had cost him dear.

This is what had happened on that fateful day. Since it was a saturday, dad had got up at 4pm after his nap. He went to water the plants in the garden, mom woke up a little later, made tea for both and she was reading a magazine in the living room. Dad came in rubbing his chest, tried sitting in the sofa and was clearly a bit uncomfortable. Mom asked him what was wrong and dad brushed her off saying its nothing. Since even after 10mins he wasn’t feeling better he told mom that his chest was paining. Alarm bells went off in moms head and she immediately realized something was wrong. She forced him to agree that they should go to the doctor immediately and ran out to the the dhobi fellow on our street to bring an auto.

Dad went in and changed, locked the house and when they came out the gate, a neighbour friend was passing by on his bike. Dad said that he will go to the doctor with that friend on the bike and mom need not come. Mom put her foot down and took him in the auto asking that uncle to follow us on his bike. The clinic was just about 5 mins from my house and on the way, dad’s head rolled onto his side. I can’t imagine what my mom would have gone through. They reached the clinic and the doctor realized that my dad had just had a massive heart attack! He could have done some first aid or done something..but he asked mom to straight away take dad to MMM which was the closest multi speciality hospital. Dodging traffic, ducking into small lanes the auto driver managed to reach the hospital in 10-15mins…but it was too late!. The heart attack was so massive that blood flow to the brain stopped and precious oxygen supply to the brain was cut off. In general the brain can withstand upto 3-6 mins without oxygen before brain damage occurs.

So dad was put on the ventilator and was given 24 hours. 24 hours later, he was given 48 hours and then 72 hours. They said they would remove the ventilator after that and if he breathes by himself after that it was good. We never realized that even if he began to breathe by himself it would not help – because technically he was brain dead. The truth hit us only after 3 days, though he was breathing on his own. All his organs were functioning well except his brain. He would look at us, yawn, mumble things – all these which normally happen and is called “Involuntary responses”.

I sometimes wonder–if the doctors in the ER knew he was brain dead and was gone due to the massive heart attack, why did they have to revive him with 8 shocks to the heart? They could have pronounced him “brought dead”. It would have saved him 5 months of torture being in a coma he would have never come out of. He would not have suffered his organs failing one by one and people all around him praying for him to be “taken away” as soon as possible everyday.

I am one of those who prayed everyday that he should pass on. I was scared for mom. She too had high BP and I did not want anything to happen to her. I could not see him like this-bedridden with tubes through his nose (liquid diet),tubes for urine output. After 40days in the hospital they discharged him saying we could take him home as there was nothing more they could do. So we brought him home, arranged for a home nurse. Mom could not handle everything – feeding him, bathing him, taking care of the house.

I had to quit office the next month as I had to move to Hyderabad and had already put in my papers. I requested them to relieve me immediately. There would anyways not be a wedding now, and I could not go back to work leaving mom all alone at home. I would get back to work later after a couple of months I thought.

My sister stayed back and my BIL and nephew went back to the USA after a week. July 14th  2004 was the wedding date and as the date was getting closer, my sister convinced my mom to go ahead with the wedding as the date was already finalized and it was anyways a private affair with just the registration of marriage. “Dad is still alive” my sister said and he would want her to be happy, there is no point not going ahead with it.

So July 14th 2004, K and me got married in the presence of my sister, RS and his wife. RS arranged everything – the Registrar, the photographer, the video, garlands..everything what a father ought to do. He and my sister gave me away during the wedding, mom could not be there as she wanted to stay in the hospital. It was not like a wedding for K and me. We just went through the formalities, signed the certificates-and we were married.

My sister left a week later and it was mom and me with Dad. For a man who hated visiting doctors, who never checked his (high) BP regularly, it was shocking when the doctor told us that he might have got smaller attacks before. But as men always do, he seems to have brushed it aside and never bothered to inform mom about it. Why do men do this I do not understand. Agreed they are providers for the family, but then, shouldn’t their health also be a priority?. They don’t want to scare their family or trouble their loved ones. Their egos don’t seem to allow them to acknowledge that something is wrong with them. But when things hit the family out of the blue, they are gone leaving those same loved ones to cope, pick up the pieces and move on. Is that fair? Dad stayed in a coma for 5 months at home and breathed his last on 15th Nov 2004. He was 64. I left for Hyderabad on Dec 31st 2004 and started a new chapter in my life on Jan 1st 2005..a New Year, a new beginning.

So today when I heard RS is no more – though we had been expecting it for sometime, the news still shook me, numbed me and my mind refuses to come to terms that he is no more. The most important truth here is that RS is my BIL’s closest, thickest, dearest childhood friend. They grew up together and were more like brothers. Due to this friendship he became close with me and my family too. He helping my BIL and my sister is understandable. There was no need to help his friend’s inlaws, right?

But no, he was always there for us…never expecting anything in return. He was part of our family too. He was there to help me get all the documents after dad expired. He was there, accompanying my mom and later waiting in the scorching sun when she had to go for her US visa interview. He was there checking up on mom often, when she was staying alone before K and me brought her to stay with us in Hyderabad. He was there to help us sell off our house in Chennai and with all the legal work. He was there for so many things – and now he’s gone to a place to never return.

RIP RS – you were a wonderful person. You will be missed.

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ― Mitch Albom.
Memories are all that remain. Wish it wasn’t this hard!

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