Life after death
A year ago today my daughter, then 17, and I left for Mumbai and spent five weeks traveling on our own in Southern India. Even though the trip was preceded by months of onerous travel preparations, serious concerns about getting sick, and worries about whether such a costly trip would be worth it, my memories are even sweeter with time. This trip ranks very high in my good decisions book. A once-in-a-lifetime trip with my daughter was worth every penny.
It was a trip born of grief. I had spent the previous year taking care of my parents, who died within six months of one another. My dying mother was afraid of sleep and afraid of death. She lay awake each night, tense, and in great discomfort. Each narcotic patch and pill brought unkind side effects. For months non-stop, it was a war on two fronts: unrelenting pain from cancer and endless side effects from medications. It was my father who unexpectedly died first. Suffering from shortness of breath, swollen feet, distended stomach and nausea, he died of heart failure in a hospital bed. After that year of being a daily witness to chronic pain and anxiety, and having two people in their eighties totally reliant on me, I was exhausted.
But a month of travel in India (and then Amsterdam) had me smiling on the inside as we visited Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. I was in exceptionally high spirits.
In India you can't avoid the smell and sight of burning plastics in public spaces; the daily power cuts and lack of water; the endless piles of garbage and cast-off construction materials; the roads congested with people, bikes, mopeds, rickshaws, taxis and trucks. The honking is non-stop and the drivers excessively fast.
But there is another side to India, and it is far from token. I hugely enjoyed the stone temples and the fabulous deities carved into ancient rocks; the spice plantations and tea estates; the rain forest hikes and the sunset beaches of Goa. I enjoyed even more the interactions with the locals, meeting other travellers, and having my daughter with me.
In a big way, it’s the women of South India, with their long black hair, shining from coconut oil and wrapped in saris of glorious colours and patterns, that are the real beauty of this country. But, such hard lives they have.
I have simplified below a conversation that helped me accept the initial worries and concerns that plagued me about my trip.
Q: What if I don’t like India, or my daughter doesn’t like it or, we don’t have a good time after spending so much money?
A: The worse that can happen is you don’t like it!
So it is with this wonderful memory still fresh in my mind that I tell you what this trip taught me about living life more fully: When you have a whim to do something, do it, and don't worry too much about the risks.
Have a happy and healthy holiday season. Thank you readers for sending encouraging notes about the blogs. And thank you for all the comments. I'll be back in 2014!
Keep you posted,
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11/12/2013 12:04:49 am
Thank you Minda for your beautiful, insightful writing. Early morning, sitting at my desk at work, cup of tea, it is a pleasure to read this. Cheers to you, sweet friend. (....when are you writing that book?)
11/12/2013 06:01:16 am
It's really lovely to hear from strangers and friends that they like a blog. Thanks for taking time out to say so. That book is on the back burner.... for a long time I think. I wrote a few short stories though!
11/12/2013 01:24:59 am
11/12/2013 06:06:33 am
Anyone who has been a part of a friend or family members dying "journey" understands the fear of dying and the lack of energy for living. It's this juxtaposition of living and dying that is so hard I think. And, yes those medications! Thanks for your thoughtful post.
Hey Minda, I can imagine travel to those places simply through your gift of writing. Your story with your parents also reminded me mine, we lost of them 21 days apart. It's amazing how many of us gone through similar experience. This, has brought me closer to you.
11/12/2013 06:40:40 am
21 days! Shockingly close.
11/12/2013 08:32:56 am
A very fine comment on India ! Thank you .
11/12/2013 08:37:38 am
Not an easy place to capture in a few words. I am glad you enjoyed.
11/12/2013 11:56:47 am
I saw you tired, saw you sad, saw you stressed but never saw you giving up and always saw you focussing to give the best support and help to your parents. Your enormous love for them meets your enormous love for life . As you gave the best of you ( and all your love) to ease their deaths, you give now the best you can ( and all your devotion) to ease our living . Looking forward to read you again and again Minda.
11/12/2013 01:25:22 pm
What a beautiful post Danielle! With much appreciation truly, Minda
12/12/2013 12:47:45 am
Your writing is awesome, poignant, humorous, wise-all in abundance!
12/12/2013 12:49:16 am
Compliments don't get better than this! You made my day.
Danielle R. Shapazian
22/12/2013 05:18:40 pm
I thought your writing in this post was lovely. Here's to a great 2014! I have good feelings for you and what might be in store! :-)
24/12/2013 08:43:43 am
Danielle, thank you for dropping by the site and your warm wishes. Looking forward to 2014!
27/12/2013 01:15:53 pm
Great blog Minda and great comments. Such highs and such lows, so close together. Life is a roller coaster. We realise all this stuff is coming but somehow we are still never quite prepared for it. But stick to the roller coaster Minda, It's better than the merry-go-round. Love and Happy New Year.
27/12/2013 02:58:22 pm
What a great line - "stick to the roller coaster, it's better than the merry-go-round"
5/1/2014 03:40:30 am
10/1/2014 03:31:29 pm
11/1/2014 03:54:14 am
I suppose in some situations, throwing caution to the wind is not advised and a whim should remain a whim as the risks are too high. But, it's true too as you say, the greatest risk sometimes is when we choose not to.. I suppose it's how high the stakes are in whether we act or not. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation.
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