No. She didn’t die alone. We were there round the clock. She slept in the same room my parents did. Though she was happy sharing my room, my parents decided to move her because I had my Class X exams to study for. I have no clue how it affected her, but I felt that she didn’t exactly cherish the idea of sharing a room with her son and daughter-in-law.
She didn’t die before my exam. She didn’t want to least it should affect my exams. She used to mumble about my studies in her apparent stupor and that’s how I knew that even in her failing mind we remained her priority. And then one day after my exams, with my father away on his work, she closed her eyes and was gone with my mother and me by her side.
Did she miss her other son and grandchildren at the time of her death? We will never know. My mother looked at me and said, “It’s time.” I never asked her about the meaning but taking care of the whole process from getting the doctor, contacting relatives and making funeral arrangements transformed me from being a teenager to an adult. I was just 16.
It has been 46 years since that day. In all these years there have been numerous rings of a phone with someone from the other end saying, “it’s time.” Some of them were expected, and some unexpected as in my father’s case. When he died in his sleep my mother and her elder sister were there by his side. We were abroad getting our son admitted to a university. The day we left, he quite uncharacteristically told my son, kissing his head, “ I will probably not see you again”. He didn’t.
Did he die alone? But strangely, I didn’t cry. He was the greatest friend that I had. Probably, to my son, his grandfather was the one with whom he could share everything without uttering one single word.
And then a few days back, my uncle died. He was my last link to my dad. He was my father’s cousin. He was the one who never bothered about my grades but would quietly pull me up for an article that he thought wasn’t argued well. He read all my stuff that he came across. Would regularly ring enquiring about us invariably ending the call asking about my last article.
My cousin stays abroad. We couldn’t be by his side. It's covid time. He was taken to the hospital by people who were not his own. And he died in the hospital alone. He was a covid victim. As I sit with my phone sifting through his obit links, I am pondering about his last thoughts. We would never know. But one thing is for sure. I am not growing old. I am growing lonesome.