“Funerals aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living”- The Fault in Our Stars
I woke up on the morning of August 20th in the Phi Phi Islands with messages from my family on my phone. I saw my mom’s flight itinerary and automatically knew. Sobbing, I called my parents and asked them it was true. Yes, ba (grandmother in Gujarati) had passed away at almost 100 years old. 10 minutes after getting off the phone, I had a flight booked to India and was to leave the next day.
It didn’t actually hit me that I was going until I reached the airport in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on the morning of the 22nd. My cousin’s husband had picked me up from the airport and told me they were holding her body until I got there. 30 minutes after landing, I watched them lift her body from the area they were holding it into a jeep to transport to the home she was married into.
We got there after the jeep reached and the house was full of people who she had known their entire lives. She was the eldest in our community- everyone else she had grown up with had already passed away.
My mind flashbacked 5 months earlier at my other father’s mother’s funeral and it seemed so different. Both of them had lived in villages close to one another and although they lived in different families, the ends of their lives were so different. My mother’s mother was laid to rest in the place she had always known and loved. It’s exactly where she wanted to spent her last moments.
My grandmother (mom’s mom) was 14 years old when she married my grandfather. She was the one who carried out of the duties that a man would typically carry out during that time. She may have looked fragile, but she was strong and stubborn as an ox. She took the buffalo to the river and harvested the crops by herself. She lived through Gandhi’s time when the British would come throughout the village to collect the farmer’s crops. My grandmother was able to hear the sound of the engine of a car from miles away, so would quickly hide the crops before the British came to collect them. If the farmers didn’t hand their crops over, the British would beat them. She had seen and experienced way more than any of us had thought.
I knew the day my grandmother would pass was coming. I had expected it, but was blindsided when it actually happened. Both of my grandmothers were the reason I started going to India each year starting from when I was 11. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to develop a relationship with them before they passed away. As the years went on, my reasons for coming to India changed, but I always had that time I intended to have with them.
The 5 days I spent in India felt longer than the weeks I usually spend in India. I spent a lot of time thinking about how so much can change within two generations. My grandmother had seen a span of a couple of villages throughout her lifetime while I had just gotten back from backpacking around Southeast Asia. Her signature was a fingerprint while I can understand, read, and write multiple languages.
Until the last few years of university, the last year or two of their lives, I didn’t truly understand their strength. I didn’t understand that although they weren’t these college educated women with careers, they were still incredible women with unbelievable strength. They didn't have to be college educated or living on their own to be strong. Their lives are proof of that.
As hard as it is, I think loss lives in the deep corners of all of our minds. We grieve about different things for different reasons whether or not they are living. This experience taught me about life and the ongoing cycle of grief we experience throughout our lives. I've learned that we can grieve the passing of a relative, the ending of a relationship, or even the end of an important life event. At the end of the day, everything comes to an end and we almost always have to deal with it whether or not the ending was good. All we can do is live our lives without regrets and follow our hearts through this journey of life.