April might have been the cruelest of months to T S Eliot, but to me it’s been September. Every year as September approaches my heart fills with trepidation. It has been the month that has brought in almost every death that affected me one way or the other.
1996 September took away my grandfather. My grandmother, dutiful wife that she was, promptly followed him the next September. After a brief respite for a couple of years, 1999 brought in the worst of them all. My father. I still remember the phone call that Tuesday night. It was September 21st. Curiously my husband shut the room’s door when he took that call. I was having dinner and watching ‘Something about Mary’ on HBO. I thought the TV’s volume might have bothered him. He waited till I was done with dinner before he told me. After that I always turn the TV off when that movie plays. I don’t think I will ever watch it again.
I’d just seen my dad off at the JFK airport 15 days back. The last I saw of him was just before he turned the corner behind the Kuwait airways counter on his way to board the plane. He turned back and stood there for almost a minute just looking at me till my mother urged him to move on. I can never forget the look on his face and that’s the image of him that I carry in my heart. I never saw him after that. I didn’t make it for the funeral. Told them not to wait for me. I’d rather remember him alive.
I also learnt a valuable lesson that night. ‘Never wish for anything too hard’. You just might get it and it might not really be what you wanted. The day my parents left, I remember thinking, “I’d give anything to go home for a visit.” I got to go home. But the ‘anything’ I had to give was my father.
The year 2000 took away an uncle barely a week after the first anniversary of my father’s passing.
2001 brought no death, but there was a setback of another kind. The twin towers came down in NYC and so did the new startup company in California that my husband had just joined. A few weeks later I made the most memorable journey in my life. I flew halfway across the world, racing across airports with my three month old baby in a sling over my shoulder, my five year old daughter in a stroller and my mom who had fallen sick (she had come to help me with my daughter’s delivery) in a wheelchair.
The next three years went by with no incident. 2004 brought tragedy again. This time it was a cousin. One I had grown up with. He had fought with me, told me several tall tales and brought me plenty of books to read. A kidney failure claimed him. He was just 46. He left behind a 36 year old wife and an 11 year old daughter.
The past few years again were uneventful and at midnight on September 30th, as the clock’s needle had edged towards October 1st I had been able to sigh with relief. I usually hold my breath the whole month and breathe only when necessary.
However this September tragedy struck again. This morning I heard what must have been the most shocking death of all. My sister –in-law’s nephew whom I’d known since he was 7 or so. Played with him and fought with him, quibbled over comic books and teased him, when I used to spend a few days every summer vacation at my sister-in-law’s house. I saw him last on September 4th 2008, the day before I came back from India after attending my niece’s wedding. This September 4th, he is no more.
Just 35 years old. Too young to have a heart attack. I am still reeling from shock and my heart goes out to his bubbly and charming young wife and the adorable imp of a daughter who is just 3, and his parents whose grief I cannot even begin to imagine.
26 days more to go, before the wretched month comes to an end.
Sarah McLachlan sings Angel.