Recollections of Mother Part II, by Amrita Valan

Updated: Apr 18

As my children and I sang to honor my mother’s memories, a song about standing at the eternal crossing between life and death, the ethereal gap bridged only by music, ( A song of Tagore’s), it inflamed my imagination and became a balm to my soul. I remembered holding hands with my frail mother, in 2015, the year before she fell grievously ill at evening prayers. Mother and daughter had darkened the room, sat on her bed, facing each other, singing at her request, this same song. It had been a favorite of her mother, my dida as well. As we held hands and sang, I had imagined a bridge in ascent across this tremulous silver rivulet of life, with dida standing at the other end, her hands held out to clutch, not ours, but the strains of our adoration as they drifted heavenward. I felt as though she, my mother, and I had connected at that instant, for a moment, because it appeared ma had experienced something equally moving. Her eyes welled over, her face crumpled, and for the first time I, her adult daughter took my tiny mother in my arms, to console her, as she cried for hers. Memories of her head of grey-black curls upon my bosom, our hands tightly intertwined, were now my heavenly memoirs today. I hoped that evening; I had lightened her grief and longing for her mother. Today, feeling in my bones I had indeed done that, that my dida herself stood at the gates of heaven watching over and blessing us, lightened my load. In tears I smiled at ma’s photo, beseeching her presence now, at the other end of the bridge, to hear her daughter’s adoration.

Trembling, I got a glimpse of another moment soon when I too shall ascend that bridge, to greet my beloved matriarchs at the other end of the crossing.

My eleven-year-old lisped through the harder Bengali words longingly eying the tempting platter of white sweets. And I smiled as their darling Rina Dida, (My mother), would have done, indulgently with gentle, gracious humor.

“Let us leave the room, honey, for a few minutes, let her receive our dedication in privacy, and then you can have a sweet. Or two.” I smiled at my two loyal imps.

Josh smiled at me, blushing, and I locked my little boy in a tight hug. So like my mother to look at, he was a constant reminder that they never leave us, our beloved parents and grandparents. They are always there, in the touch, the smile, a word, expression, or gesture of our children.

On that afternoon of March 3rd, 2019, I received a call from the hospital at 1:36 pm that my mother was no more on our earthly plane. I had expected it in a day or two, but we were fresh back from the hospital just after visiting her and had not expected the call to come so soon.

The night before, I had said my goodbyes to her, taking my eighty-four-year-old father upstairs to her secluded room, to sit outside and bless her. He could not come in contact with her because of the Acinetobacter she had contracted from the ventilator. His immune system would be too frail at his age to resist its contagious power.

I went inside, in dad’s presence, and stroked her head and sang childhood songs, that she had taught to me, as loudly as I dared, (There was a patient in the next glass-enclosed room), hoping against hope, that though she drifted in her coma, in her “brain dead vegetative state”, as the doctors had pulled me aside to describe, she could still hear my voice, and know her “little old woman” as she called me, was standing watch over her, was still