When I informed people about my mother’s recent passing, the common question was whether her death was expected. I replied with mixed emotions – sometimes a no, and other times a yes. The truth is, while I did not expect it, my mother did. In fact, she had planned her own death. She had even informed us to anticipate it, but I failed to listen and believe her.
Throughout the later years of her life, my mother, in her 70s, displayed timidity in her actions. Despite having strong opinions, she navigated the world with uncertainty, particularly when it came to embarking on journeys. This hesitancy often frustrated me, as she would panic over even small and simple trips, obsessing over potential missteps and anxiously questioning her preparations. So, how could I have expected her to embark on the ultimate journey so decisively and alone?
The courage she displayed in taking her own life was unexpected to me. However, looking back, her anxiety surrounding journeys had always been present. And yet, even though she had been vocal about her intentions, I never fully grasped the seriousness of her words. My sister and I would discuss what she meant by it, while my partner hypothesized that her words stemmed from loneliness. We spoke frequently, but that didn’t mean she didn’t still feel isolated.
Over time, her repeated statements lost their weight, and I began to overlook them. They no longer alarmed me as they once did. Instead, they resembled a casual remark that older women make to remind their loved ones not to take them for granted. It didn’t raise any immediate red flags or indicate a crisis. The conversations seemed ongoing, never hinting at an abrupt end.
However, it was her change in behavior that truly alarmed me. She gradually started gifting away pieces of family jewelry, one by one. Additionally, she stopped making plans, a role she had often assumed, leaving us to wonder about our usual family traditions and future events. Then, out of the blue, she invited the immediate family to a restaurant for lunch, without any specific celebration in mind. Her actions were out of the ordinary, simultaneously frightening and puzzling.
Despite our concerns, we continued to juggle between trying to anchor her to life while she distanced herself further. Then, one Sunday, my sister confronted her about her odd behavior, and my mother finally admitted that she believed it was time. We all attempted to hold on to her, desperately trying to tie knots in the ropes of love and memories, even as she worked just as diligently to untie them.
On a fateful Monday in December, I took a day off and invited my mother to lunch. Intuitively, I couldn’t wait until the weekend to see her, as we typically would. There was an underlying sense of trouble, but I had no inkling that it would be our last lunch together. I chose a trendy restaurant serving Indian street food, and my 75-year-old mother appeared content with everything, sitting there in her plain attire.
After the meal, we strolled along the canal. My mother had this unique ability to find joy and fascination in the simplest of things. Little did I know that this serene moment would forever be etched in my memory, as I was completely unaware that it would be our final shared experience.
In the end, I misjudged my mother’s intentions, failing to fully comprehend the signs she had displayed. Her unexpected death taught me the importance of listening, believing, and recognizing the changes in our loved ones.