"We couldn't save him we are extremely sorry ma'am your son is no more".
An eerie silence crept all over. I was so shocked that I stood rooted to the spot. No tears, no sobs, no loud cries just a blank stare. Staring into oblivion. It was just this morning that I kissed Rehan good morning, gave him a bear hug which is our morning ritual, whispered in his ears " Mumma loves you baby", lovingly packed his sandwiches and stuffed the chocolate bars and chips into his bag. He was all excited about his school picnic. They we're headed to a resort which had a lake and my boy loved water. What an irony.It's this water which made him pay the price of his life. Yes it took him away from me forever.
When a child loses his parents, he is called an orphan. A wife who loses a husband is called a widow, a husband who loses his wife is referred to as s widower. But what do you call a parent who has lost his child. Is there a word? I guess not. It's because the pain is so deep that they could not fit it in a single world. I had sunk into an abyss of pain. I did not shed a single tear for days togethter. I went through the rituals with a solemn expression on my face, as if it was someone else's funeral, not my Rehan. Most of all I detested people hugging me and whispering " you have to be strong, you can think of another-child, it's not that late". This is god's will" .
A few days later when I was left on my own, it started sinking in. My child, my heartbeat was gone. Forever. He would never come back. The first thing I wanted to do is preserve every part of him , his fragrance. Those t shirts which he carelessly flung on the chair after coming home each evening and I always reprimanded him " Rehan don't throw your sweaty shirt , put it in the washing machine".
I ran to his room breathless and there it was on his chair. I hugged the t shirt, it smelt of him. I kept hugging it and wore it. I wanted to preserve his fragrance forever, somewhere it made me feel that he was around. I went to his wardrobe and took out his school uniform, his shorts, the sweater I had knitted for him, his pullover and I smelt everything. I was searching for my son, any thing that bore his presence is what I wanted to freeze permanently. Silly me. Nothing lasts forever does it. A few days later the smell faded away. It smelt more like me now as I kept wearing it. I had refused to leave my house for many days since Rehan's death. But how long could I sit confined? There were bills to be paid, vegetables to be bought, I had a job which I had to return to. My husband had to leave to Dubai after a few days, he was working there, had moved there on a project 8 months back. Due to Rehan's schooling we stayed back. The project was supposed to end in a years time so we decided that this arrangement would work for all. He was hesitant to leave me, he coaxed me to come with him at least for a few days but I refused. How can I leave Rehan alone and come I said and held his sweater closer. He just nodded his head and went off.
As I stepped out my house, and looked around I saw that nothing had changed. I could hear the banter of kids as they played and skipped, the vegetable vendor stood st his usual spot, the milkman cycled by whistling, the grandmas were busy chatting and laughing as they walked briskly in the park, nothing had changed really. Only my life had turned upside down. By the time I got back home after completing all the purchases, sorting out the bank work I felt better. But as soon as I stepped into the house the memories came flooding again. It took a long long time to get a hold of myself, to get back to my old life, I don't think I can ever go back to my old life as my son who was the most important part of it is no longer with me. But yes I stared life afresh. In hindsight when I remember those painful days, what often made it worse was people around who probably had all the good intentions but did not know what to say. They ended up making it worse for me and my husband. " life will get better, this too shall pass, have faith in God" said some of them. "Really" I wanted to scream" my son has just died and you think it will get better huh? What if it was your son instead of mine, and which God are u talking of. The creator - who they say balances the scales. What right did he have to sniff out life of such an innocent soul? Don't dare talk this garbage. Keep your mouth shut if you can". And then some said" you are not too old you can think of another child in a few months, I mean you should always have thought of two". I did not know whether to hit them with a bat or use my bare hands to strangle them. How can you make good the loss of a child by a sibling or just deciding to have another. Would that fill the void? Would that make a parent gradually shut out the memories of their child whom they lost? And they give this as one of the reasons of deciding to have more than one child. So that you have back up in an unforeseen and unfortunate case like mine. While there were a whole bunch of senseless loose mouth people, there were also those who gave me a genuine hug, who said to me" no I cannot feel your pain as much as you, no one can. I only pray and hope that you find strength to start life afresh. It will not be as joyful as the one you have been living with Rehan, no one and nothing can replace that. But I hope you find your peace and strength to get back and start life anew". That gave me hope. That someone was acknowledging my loss and not simply trying to cover it up. And they genuinely wanted me to start living again.
It's been a year Rehan left us and life has moved on, the pain is still there, the wounds are not healed, I wake up in the middle of the night and go to his room , sleep on his bed hugging his sweater. My little prince. The memories will stay forever in my heart. Can a mother ever forget her child? Can she move on? Could there be a greater pain for a mother than seeing the lifeless body of her child and knowing he will never come back? Can another child make good the loss? I do not have answers to all these questions but as I kiss Rehan's life size photo this morning before heading out to work, (this is our daily morning ritual now) ,I smile. For Rehan always wanted me to smile "Mumma you look very beautiful when you smile, keep that smile always" and I smile for my boy. " But I have promises to be keep and miles to go before I sleep"
Writer's note: This is a piece of fiction. This is not meant to hurt anyone's sentiments. This is based on a real account of someone I know who lost her child and is dedicated to all Moms who have had to go through this pain. May god grant you serenity.
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