Litany of loss

Litany of loss

Ma died, lost her to cancer.

A little lump in the breast;

It proved stronger than all the meds, prayers and powers put together.

When she first discovered this beast, that devoured her alive, I was 13 and my brother 5.

That wails of hers, when the reports said Stage 4,

The weeping, screaming and cursing of every deity she’d ever worshipped;

Is not something I want to remember, but am unlikely to forget.

Soon the sobs subsided and arose the hope,

Of conquering the crab, making it alive,

What if it was Stage 4!

Ma walked like a warrior to the Chemo sessions, smiled and laughed at every medication,

3 months, the doctor’s had announced but after a year she was still around.

Bereft of her Rapunzel locks, a shiny pate soon covered by baby curls, Ma was Ma, hair or no hair.

The crab was gone, that’s what they said, the doctors of the shiny coats and steely demeanors.

Ma had won this round.

Life went back, but this time around, we appreciated what we had, for it had almost been snatched.

A typical human trait, to value more, what is almost robbed;

Ma filled our seconds with hugs and kisses and laughter,

Every nook and cranny, filled with pictures, of smiles bigger than the frame’s dimensions.

We’d learnt to survive, no thrive, inspite of the shadow.

Until one day, when the crab came back,

Not alone,

But with reinforcements, strategic invasions,

Attacking from all sides.

The white coats shook their heads, all reports spelled dread,

And yet, this time, Ma wasn’t scared;

And if she was, it didn’t show; all she said was, I’ve defeated it once, I’ll do it again.

Life again turned topsy turvy,

And chemo, alternative therapies, immunotherapy, all became part of everyday vocabulary.

The doses got stronger, the prayers too.

Everyone we knew prayed to every God they knew,

And Ma said, don’t worry, I’ll live to see my son’s bride;

I’ve defeated it once, I’ll do it again.

Did I mention, that Ma sang, her voice sweeter than a nightingale?

That soft voice our shelter in this raging gale.

That soft voice with a strong resolve of getting better was our beacon.

But for once, the beacon failed,

The scans came back, the crab wasn’t gone;

Instead had occupied every inch of her insides,

Now it was just a matter of time.

That was the day, Ma gave up, she no longer had the strength to give me a hug.

No voice that reassured, I have done it once, I’ll do it again.

I tried to be the strength she’d lost,

I swear, I did.

My daily routine, a timetable of fruits and medicine and making Ma smile.

Smile she did, laugh too,

But the sadness peeped out with a tear or two,

And how slowly it went downhill.

Ma is no more;

I am 19, my brother 10, almost 11.

We’ve already lost the biggest battle of our lives.

Are we bitter, angry, bereft,

Maybe?

But there’s something that even death cannot snatch,

It’s a soft voice that croons in our heads, kisses us when we’re asleep in our beds,

Tucks us tight, wishes us goodnight.

For Ma isn’t just a person, she’s also a feeling;

Of safety

Of reassurance

Of love, unconditional

A cocoon where life cannot touch us.

She’s there in my brother’s grin, in the turn of my head,

She’s here, embedded in our very skins; very much alive.

Featured image:  Karim MANJRA/Unsplash


By Priyanka Modi

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