Contemplate death, I remind myself over and over.
I contemplate it while I hold the downward facing dog pose – hips arched into an inverted V, head bent forward to elongate the spine, while turning the toast over the pan to see how char has formed where the butter had been, while dusting the spine of books lined undisturbed, and while hearing my mother say that she will prolong her stay to be with her dying mother.
My grandmother has cancer of the cervix. It was found a decade ago. I was a college graduate, my sister was in high school, my mother had just crossed her fortieth, my cousins – some were working, some were still studying, some had got married and had had their first children – moved along with life.
My grandmother would have been in her late sixties but it might be a factual error in my memory. But, that was the year the chemotherapy began. Veins in her frail hands were explored and poked. Her knee-length hair was shaved altogether, leaving just a centimeter of resisting undergrowth on her head. Her beautiful bronze skin developed white scales. Blood, vomit, saliva also form part of this history. But, she could still speak. She could walk in between rooms, play with her youngest grandchild, occasionally assist her daughter-in-law in preparing meals, pay a visit to the nearby temple.
I spoke with my grandmother a year ago. She was still frail but she remembered my name then. I have waited for my mother to hand over the phone to her on this visit. It hasn’t happened yet. Tonight, my mother calls to tell me, “The doctor has given her ten days. Keeping her at home would be best for her.”
The dear ones pour in for visits. I imagine my mother in all this – the younger of the two daughters and the third of the five children my grandmother had. For only these rare moments in our lived history, I stop seeing my mother as my mother.
For these rare moments in our lived history – my mother and I, devoid of age, maturity, and experience, have arrived in the same place in time – as one. We cease for a while the forward relationships – lover, mother, wife, grandmother. We cease for a while to take a step back in time to become closer to the fundamental relationship – a child to our mother. A daughter, in this case.
The void which will imminently develop in this matrilineal tree, will also germinate new seedlings. Then my mother will find her mother. I will find mine. And, for all who can see, we will be standing – each of us led into the other, as one.