Is there a set period of time that one has for mourning? There is a sense of acceptance that the person is gone, yet somehow, a little trigger sometimes gets the memories flooding back and the ground below doesn’t seem as firm. It is funny how life brings you such reminders. Not ha-ha funny, but that peculiar kind of funny.
I woke up on Friday morning, earlier than usual, yet feeling unusually tired. I checked Facebook to see if someone has put something inspiring or unusual, but the first thing I noticed was “RIP Chester Bennington”. That shook me out any sleepiness that was there, and I was on The Guardian and BBC News checking and praying that the news was a hoax. After all, just a few days prior, the hoax on Mr. Bean’s death had returned. Alas, the news of Chester’s death turned out to be true. I wrote a small tribute, and then ended up listening to my Linkin Park playlist most of the day.
The impact that Linkin Park has had on my life, especially during college days, has been that deep. I can relate to their lyrics, and can understand that pain. So in a way, their music helped. There was comfort there, that I wasn’t alone. As I heard One More Light on repeat, a verse of its lyrics hit deeper than I thought it would. It was that little peculiar trigger that brought back a few memories that had been buried under more happy ones.
The reminders, pull the floor from your feet
In the kitchen, one more chair than you need, oh
And you’re angry, and you should be, it’s not fair
Just ’cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there
At the end of April, I lost my grandfather. He had been ill for over a year, but his death had been unexpected. I had been on an official trip, one of the best times of my life. I had returned just a few hours before he passed away. I was told he was okay, no better and no worse. I went to office, and had been at my desk hardly five minutes before I got the call saying he was no more. To be frank, I don’t remember much of who I told at office. My mind had gone blank. The first thing I had wished for was that if only I had had time to visit him once before he passed.
My grandfather and I didn’t have the closest of relationships. But one thing I know is that he was very protective of me. He believed he was independent, and he lived that way in the time I knew him. Maybe it was this belief that was ruptured when he needed a home nurse to attend to him in his last days. To go from that adamant, sure-of-himself in everything attitude to being dependent on a stranger was a blow. He had a temper that flared up when he felt his opinion was being challenged. That adamant attitude gave him a “my way or the highway” mindset which tested everyone’s patience a lot, including mine. I’ve been in three major accidents in my life. With God’s grace, I have come out of them with just few cuts or bruises. But my grandfather was there in two of those, and he had required surgery on both occasions. I wonder why it’s easier to recollect the difficult, sad memories so much. Maybe it’s because the happy ones are those that sadden me more. They’re the reminders that pull the floor from my feet.
He was a kind man, and loved his family a lot. He inspired me a lot too. I remember he’d drop my sister and me to school till I was in high school, and till she was old enough to get a bicycle of her own. He’d buy us ice lollies from the shop outside, even though they weren’t “healthy”. He would tell me I’ve lost weight even though I had gained, and would not leave me to go home from his place until I had had something to eat. He was generous to others too. He was respected by many people, especially at his former place of employment. He had a memory for numbers, and was very meticulous with his money. Even when he was ill, he would try to make sure he lived on his terms and not on his children’s. He would come home every Vishu morning to give me the kaineetam (a sum of money given by elders to the younger ones to mark the start of the New Year). He loved to garden and tended to his plants well. He had a booming voice that could be heard at the end of the street when he raised it.
Marlon James wrote in A Brief History of Seven Killings, “Then I wondered if everybody has that person that haunts them, the one that got away.”
I think that that is true. Everyone does. A soul that leaves its earthly abode for a place in the heavens doesn’t leave completely. The body may burn and the ashes return to the earth, but their memories leave imprints that are indelible. Those memories do haunt, returning very quickly when a trigger is pressed unknowingly. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They made that difference in our lives. Chester Bennington did it through his music. My grandfather did it through his love.
Their time may have come, and they may not be there to make further imprints on my life, but that’s okay. They aren’t really gone from my life, no?
(© Vinay Leo R. @ I Rhyme Without Reason,
23rd July, 2017)