Moments, intangible pockets of time, sparse and undefined. Molded without any method, shaped by shapeless events that are formed into eternal memories. Moments, that stretch beyond infinity, and beyond comprehension to become interminable instances that define us. There are moments in our lives whose significance is felt even before the moment elapses. It’s omnipotent, like the ominous sky before a thunderstorm, like the absence of gravity before a fall, like the absence of sound before a heavy rainfall. Moments, strings that bind us but still throw us down into a rabbit hole deep and dark. Moments, these ethereal gems gifted to us by the heavens above, these are meant to be cherished, to be locked into the jewel boxes inside our hearts, forever.
The past week has been one such moment, no it has been a series of interconnected moments, like the notes on a symphony, intertwined some high mostly low. But resonate, each event like an iron cast onto our souls. I have written previously about the trials and tribulations that my grandmother has gone through in the past couple of months. Her suffering has been an ordeal unlike others, demanding resolve and strength. Both of which were not found in abundance in her fragile body. The trials that she had gone through reached a tipping point on the night of Sunday on the penultimate day of the month of august. My grandmother was rushed to the hospital and the paramedics who arrived pronounced that she had a heart attack. Her family rushed to her side as they have done tirelessly over many such nights. The medical saviors of humanity worked tirelessly to save her. They fought against a 72 year old body and its whims; they fought against her heart, which had stopped beating for 20 minutes. They worked like only one who is a medic can, they strived. Finally, to a crowded waiting room on the third floor of Saint Alexius hospital, they told us that her vitals were back and her heart was resuscitated. Relief rushed into the heart and minds of those around. Unfortunately like every happy message, this one too came with a catch, a double blind. My grandmother’s heart that had stopped pumping blood to her brain for 20 minutes had caused seemingly irreversible damage to her brain. She was now in a stage of unconsciousness, drifting like a vacant log on a nameless sea. Hours passed, followed by days each one burgeoning dreams of her recovery which were quickly squashed. Multiple doctors pronounced her brain, her central processing unit, the corpuscular mass of tissue and fat, the think tank of our existence as dead.
Panic seeped in like the murky waters from a stormy night, followed by acceptance and then sadness. There was nothing that could be done; our pleadings had fallen onto ears which were not listening. Our tears streaked down our faces unseen by closed eyes. Our hands held her limp body hoping for a miracle. But in life, there are no miracles. She was no more. My grandmother, the mother of my mother and other mothers, was not going to survive. The doctors switched the ventilator off, a decision that was more difficult that we were willing to accept. The entire family drove in to stay around her, to be near her in her last breaths. It was a surreal moment, a desiccated body in the middle of the room, diagonally placed in the middle, her face moved in the direction of the holy land, and around twenty family members covered in cheap blue plastic coats for protection against parasites and diseases. Twenty seemingly non terrestrial visitors hovered over the one who was the most human among us. Religious words were chanted, passages, and paragraphs from the holy book were loudly recited hoping to make her last moments easier. She, she just lay there, taking each breath with difficulty, her eyes still shut in stubborn resolve. Her lips parted and gasping for fresh air to flush her lungs, we chanted. Every child, adolescent and grownup was in the room and was enumerating the holy words, there were tears shed, few were loudly wailing, The pneumatic device fluctuated and displayed numbers indicating contradicting health reports, more vacillation on the medical device’s behalf, a sudden drop of about twenty points in the oxygen consumption, more tears, more chanting, the numbers were drastically low now, inhumanly low, the human body reduced to a machine whose life can only be determined by a gauge or measuring device, a sudden cry from a mourner and I look up at the device and down at my grandmother’s parted lips, she took one last hasty breath and then she did not breathe anymore.
The precise moment of death is quite different than one imagines, literature and cinema has enumerated it to be seeped in dramatic effects. Reality is quite different, the human body does not lunge forward inhumanly, the machines connected to it do not beep erratically, and the pulse does flatten but it does so in a gradual almost surreptitious manner. Death in fact is not one moment, for us, the group of people who were huddled together bound by the fabric of family, the moment stretched over 10 hours. 10 hours of knowing in our hearts that our loved one was no more. She was medically alive but all other definitions, she was not. Our grief continued for 10 hours, where we saw her gasp and prayed for her life and her death at the same time. Death is almost deceptive in its simplicity, it snatches people away by the hundreds, or if not thousands every single day but when it does it to a person that we know, the impact of it is almost devastatingly brutal. It knocks the wind out of you. Our grandmother, the woman who fought a losing battle with her body for the past 3 months, finally gave up.
Moments, tiny broken fragments of this journey called life. Dispersed and dissimilar to all of our defining experiences but still formed in an unforgettable shard that pierces our heart and stays with us forever. Moments of joy and happiness, of laughter and teasing, of tears of sorrow and tears of bliss, of dreams and nightmares, of gratitude and angry tirades, of warm embraces and the coldness of the night, of the birth of a child, of the pride of a parent, of a newborn grabbing your finger, of an elder wiping your tear, of the aroma of the freshly baked meal cooked at home, of the kiss of a loved one, of the last breath of a mother, moments, tiny in their duration, but they last for a lifetime.