I wonder what its like, to do something for the last time. I wonder what goes through the head of individual when they realize they are doing something for the last time. Dead men walking the green mile, a mother letting go of a stillborn baby, a doctor watching a patient dying, unable to do a thing about it. It must hurt. And yet, one can take consolation in the fact that they have known, that they have been given the time go prepare for it. Whatever that entailed.
And yet there must be so many last times that a person goes through everyday, unknowing, without even being given the opportunity to say farewell, let go and perhaps grieve. A friend from school you never stayed in touch with, an uncle who you never really knew. So many of them. Several of them that you haven’t even realized to date.
Maybe I’ve been thinking about this because I recently lost a grandmother. Someone who I was very close to in my childhood days. When she eventually moved to Bombay, there were distances in more ways than one. The stately old lady who used to make me mounds of coconut chamandi with her knurled hands, was just another elder person who harrowed me. Just before she passed away, we ended up connecting over the most unlikely thing, math. I had an exam the next day and we ended talking about negative integrals. This from a lady who still believed that ghosts resided in crows!!
After the exam, we ended up talking late that night about different things. About the annual visits to Kerala with a ton of cousins which had slowly dwindled over the years. The rice paddy field visits. The power outage. Everything. At one point I wondered when it all began. She said she didn’t know when it began but she knew when it had happened for the last time. Cousins grew up and became judgmental adults. Families got richer and drifted apart. But my amooma still remembered the last time the lot of us sat down and ate three jackfruits and got sick later. “Its important you remember the last times” is what she said, in her painstaking forced English. “Sleep and tomorrow I’ll tell you how to identify the sex of a baby still in the belly”. This was 10 pm. 8 am the next day, my amooma passed on. For the last time ever, she looked at me, called me “mole”, something only she does and drifted away. For the last time. This time I was prepared.
I was looking through my life lately over the last couple of years trying to identify if there were more last moments that I could perhaps still salvage.
I remember saying goodbye to a country I called home for five years, knowing I would never be back.
I remember touching the feet of my great grandmother and my mutachchen knowing they wouldn’t be around the next time I came to Kerala
I particularly remember hugging a friend goodbye. She’s still around but we aren’t friends anymore.
I still remember looking at my baby brother’s face the day he was brought home from the hospital knowing that was the last day I would be the baby of my house. I took a couple of years to get over that one…
I wish I had said goodbye to the scores to friends I left behind on different continents.
I wish I had the time to apologize to apologize to a friend I had wronged and I never saw him again.
I wish I didn’t have to say goodbye to a beloved friend who had moved to another continent and we both knew this was the final goodbye.
Yet, how do you say goodbye, whether the wrenching apart is sudden or unexpected or unexplained or long coming. In whatever form, it’s painful. How does one say goodbye?