My mother took her last breath on this earth at 4:45 am on October 9, 2013, with me sitting by her side and holding her hand as she lay unconscious on her hospital bed. In the background was softly playing the Hindu Mahamrityunjaya Mantra:
“OM. Tryambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim Pushti-Vardhanam, Urvarukamiva Bandhanaan, Mrityor Mukshi Yamamritaat…” which roughly translates to “We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.”
The doctor came in and pronounced her dead and although I knew the end was near even when I stepped onto the plane in Dallas, there was a moment of disbelief. I was told when I reached Bombay that my mother was clinging on to her life just waiting for me to arrive. When I reached the hospital, she was unconscious and breathing hard. As I sat next to her and talked to her hoping that she was sensing my presence at some subconscious level, I was also hoping against hope that she would suddenly open her eyes and give me the special smile that she had for me, her oldest child. But it was not to be and some 30 hours after I arrived, she left this earth without regaining consciousness. I never left her side once she passed, staying at her bedside, in the hearse which took her home, during the ceremonies which followed, back into the hearse to the crematorium for more ceremonies till I finally lit the funeral pyre, gently pushed her body into the incinerator, collected her hot ashes with my bare hands about an hour later and then immersed them in the sea at 1:45 pm on the same day.
Now it is more than 2 months since her passing and I look back on her life and the special bond that we had from the beginning of my life to the end of hers.
My mother was married when she was only 17. She used to tell me that she was a very smart student in school and wanted to be a doctor. But in those days, girls were not expected to be too smart – just get married as soon as they were out of school and have a family.
I was born to my mother when she was just 18. She used to tell me that I almost died at birth since my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and I choked to the point that I was blue when I was born. So my survival was like a miracle to her.
And the strange part was that all my life whenever I looked at her, I could see the infinite love she had for the baby who almost never made it. And from my side, as a child, my mother was this most beautiful person in the world, who could solve any problem that I brought to her, who was my biggest cheer-leader when I was succeeding at something and the person who would console me at times of loss and sorrow.
I realize now that almost everything I did was to try to impress her – and she used to be thrilled with whatever little thing I accomplished. And she believed that I was smart enough to achieve anything I wanted in life – and she also knew all my weaknesses that held me back from reaching some of my goals.
Now that she is gone, even as a middle aged man, I feel orphaned. But then I hear my mother’s voice talking to me, repeating what she has told me many times “You have always done your duty as my oldest son and unlike many other parents have about their children, I have no disappointments at all with you. So I will never be gone from your life. Even if my body leaves this earth, my spirit will be always be around protecting and guiding you”.
And, come to think of it, from my side I have no regrets as well. There was nothing left unsaid or any unfinished business between me and her. She lived a good life and had a relatively painless passage out of this world (which is ultimately what is sought by reciting the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra).
So I will move forward full steam ahead with my life and ensure that all the efforts that my mother made in bringing me into this world and nurturing me during sickness and health shall not have been in vain.
Finally, when it is my time to kick the bucket, I will have no fear whatsoever, since I have no doubt she will be out there somewhere waiting to welcome me back in her arms once again!