March 19th, 2014 —
Today is the 10th death anniversary of my aunt, my mami. It’s the same year my family and I immigrated to Canada. 10 years have passed since I have resided in North America, and nothing pulls me back homewards other than my grandfather, and the loving memories of this woman who smiles in these pictures. On paper she died of a massive heart attack, but in truth she died of a broken heart.
I remember her exactly as in this picture - always smiling, always jolly, the heart and mind of a saint. She was one of the most beautiful and gracious women I have ever known. It was almost sinful, I thought, to be so pure and angelic. She was strong and resilient, but I saw her tears while watching silly family dramas on the telly on random afternoons.
She too, like me, left everything and all she knew behind in India, to live and make her life with the man she loved. She loved him for 10 years since she was 13 years old. Once she opened her eyes to the wonderful possibilities of romance, and once she knew love, she only knew how to love my uncle. Love stories like their’s was only written in fairy tales I thought. After her passing, I realized I thought right. Not their marriage, but their love, specifically her love for him, is what kept me going when I was a budding teenager dreaming of big things and wild romances. I used to think, here is a real example of what true love is.
She taught me how to love, how to be kind, how to be strong, and how to be vulnerable. She was a dedicated principal of her school, a compassionate mother and a wonderful sister to my mother. When she died, hundreds and hundreds of people came to pay their respects - her students, their parents, all my school teachers who were her closest friends and colleagues, to long distance relatives and staffs who had worked with her. Her legacy and her testimony lay bare for all to see, as every single person I passed wept and shed tears for her. She was that kind of a woman.
I will always remember the last time I saw her alive. She was already suffering from a heart attack that began 8 in the morning. Clenching onto her chest and her face completely drenched in sweat, cringing in unimaginable pain. The last look from my mami was from the open window of our car, as my parents rushed to take her to the nearest hospital. It was a glance I exchanged with her for bare seconds before they took off. Her face had a look of shielded despair - neither one of us knew what was going to happen. A silent fear of the unknown engulfed me at that moment. But I will never forget her face. People look for context in serious situations all the time, I don’t know what her glance meant. But all I knew was she looked at me straight into the eye, still strong and resilient, still bold and fighting in her own sweet way.
I miss her so much, every so often. It took me years to overcome her passing. I somehow kept thinking she was going to walk through that door, any second now, for months and months till we finally left for Toronto. I visited her grave every time I have been back, somehow hoping she could hear me every time.
She was my second mom, the woman I aspire to be in life and the angel on earth who died for those who did not have the guts or the will power to believe in her. But I will not let that disappear. I strive to keep her legacy, her memories and tales of her beauty alive through me, my kids and every generation to come.
Rest in peace, mami. I love you so much.