Early today, we received news of a close family member passing. The shock had us silent. We sat in the quiet, each of us processing our feelings in our head. A while later, we reached out to extended family saying words that sounded cliched yet, words we meant with every bit of our hearts. We went our separate ways, my husband and I. He cut vegetables while I washed my children’s hair. Lunch was late. We ate in partial silence.
Through the day, my mind kept going back to interactions with this Chithappa of mine, family by marriage. We met in person a few times over the twenty years we have been family. He has always been kind, embracing and, welcoming of me and my children. His children were some of my first friends in my new family way back then. I have grown to cherish all of them as I do my extended family.
I search my emails and folders in my local drive in vain. I can’t find a single picture. They are all archived and stored safely in a hard drive, out of immediate reach. I conjure up his face so similar to that of my husbands. A ready smile, glasses that covered the top half of his face, a sense of responsibility he took on seriously. His love for his children was carried openly, for all to see. His pride in his children so obvious, it was enviable.
As I stood a few years ago watching him bid bidai to his only daughter as she drove away with her new husband, I welled up, the emotions too much to handle.
The distance between America and India is about eight thousand miles. The distance when we need to be there physically seems to be an impossible chasm to cross in the midst of a pandemic. I think of weddings and funerals, births and deaths. I think of the primal need for connection at our highest highs and lowest lows and it hits me that being an immigrant really means losing out on this primordial need. We are cut, severed off from the ties that bind us. We do it out of choice, not knowing what we are severing. The price seems too heavy to pay some times.
This grieving in private is heavy, it feels disembodied without anything to moor it to. I dread for all the grief yet to come as we age and so do our families.
I hope Chithappa is over the rainbow bridge, at home with his siblings who have crossed over in the past.