The fear of losing a loved one

Credits: American Psychological Association

“No love can be endless because no life is endless!”
― Mehmet Murat Ildan

I don’t know if you have experienced this yet, but death rears its ugly head on everyone. And when it does so against the person you love, it is harsh.

The first time I experienced this was when my grandfather was ill. I was studying 800 km away from home. He had suddenly fallen ill with a heart attack. Many people survive a heart attack but his condition was really bad because of his age (84). Somehow his lungs were also giving up, owing to years of smoking in his adulthood. They were keeping him in the ICU for close inspection. I was told that if anything serious were to happen, I had to come to my hometown for taking part in his last rights.

There was a sense of sadness floating around in my head, but my grandfather was a strong man. He once went for a full body checkup. The nurse asked his age, before giving the reports back. Hearing “80 and counting!” turned various heads in the hospital. She was not able to believe how a person of this age can have a healthy heart, normal blood pressure and energy. This is what made me feel confident that he will beat this again.(He was admitted twice earlier and came back after spending few days in the hospital.)

I received a call from my mother late at night.

“Is this it? Is he dead?”, I mumbled in my head.

I took the call preparing myself, holding back my tears.

“Hello, Mummy. When did it happen?”

“When what happened?”

“Oh! How is Baba Ji?” (I used to call him Baba, instead of the more common Dada we use for grandfather in India.)

“He is still in ICU. The doctors haven’t said anything concretely.”


Every call I received was filled with the suspicion that this will be his last moment. The impatience died day by day and somehow regret took its place. I and my grandfather had planned to go to Taj Mahal and click a picture together mimicking the one he had with my father. We had planned to go there in March and he was admitted in December. That’s the thing with farewells, you will regret almost everything that you did not do.

Me and My grandfather in 2000.

Fast forward to March. I remember the day; It was an India-Pakistan match of Cricket World Cup.  I got a call from my mother, telling me that doctors are sure that he would not be able to make it. A sudden slap. A gush of emotions. I still do not know why I did not cry when I heard her. I booked a cab and left for my home at that right instant. This was the first time I missed my exam.

The journey without a ticket was itself a daunting one, but the flashbacks of good memories with my grandfather took over the driving seat. I reached the ICU and saw no one was crying. Doctors said that he is still fighting. My mind was so fucked up that I started crying after seeing him in the hospital. Somehow I could not withstand the pain he was experiencing since the last few days. The anxiety came back and my head felt heavier than usual. This time I prayed that he becomes free of this suffering. I did not want him back anymore, there was no sense of guilt. I wanted this to end.

I went back. I was called again when the doctors lost hope. The outcome was same. He hung in there, still fighting. The days spent in ICU were a record for that hospital, I think. I had to go back again, as I had to repeat those exams I had missed. This time although, there was no emotional outcry. My mind was blank.

After doing 2 trips back home, he died when I was fast asleep in my hostel bed. My mother was hesitant in calling me this time as she thought this might be a false alarm again. But he was gone and I was not there. Not even to say him a goodbye.

I haven’t experienced that kind of pain, anxiety, helplessness ever. This made me wonder whether the relationships we nurture through years are worth it or not. All we get is a never-ending pain and loss of an essential part of our life. Is this where all life-forms feel helplessness? The loss of a loved one or death itself!