A New Year letter to remember someone who can never be forgotten
December 28th is/was my mother’s birthday. My mom cherished the midnight cake cutting and being showered with gifts. Mom shared not only her birthday month with Santa Claus but also his enthusiasm for Christmas. There was a childlike quality to her, which I always admired because I have always been an adult with an old soul.
I miss her reassuring smile, wanting to take pics with Santa Claus in her sari, her faith in ridiculous scenarios, and her warm embrace, Sab theek hoga, beta (It will all be OK). I also miss the things about her that once drove me crazy.
Let’s be honest: My mother and I were nothing like Kajol and Farida Jalal in “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.” If anything, Mom, and I argued a lot. She lived for “Beta, what will people say.”
My motto is, “I am not samosa or brownies; it’s not my job to keep others happy.” I have never had any interest in buying saris or jewelry. My mother was a shopaholic who once spent 30 minutes in a Yankee store in New York City. I am serious!!!
I started to write poetry as a little girl and asked questions about social issues as a pre-teen. She wanted to please others and seek external validation. I was the biggest shock my mom received from the mother universe.
I’m not like anyone in my family, and I have known that for a very long time. You couldn’t place me inside a box or label me. I am full of contradictions. I love a seat at the table in the boardroom just as much as I like cooking fresh meals every day. Besides, I enjoy an occasional glass of pinot noir as much as my daily yoga asana practice.
My duality confused my mom too. But whether it was Diwali gathering or a weekend party, Mom and I were in sync. Without discussing it, we often created the same menu.
Even when I was sick, she intuitively knew what I needed. It would astound my husband how my mom would call up and say, “Abhi fever kitna hai, beta?” How did she know I had fever or some other health issue? That’s a mom’s special radar, I guess.
On Friday, October 28, 2022, I missed my mother in every little thing. It was the day of my final exams in Ayurveda school (for this year). And I longed to hear her voice and receive her blessings:
She would say: “I will go to Mahavir Mandir and offer besan laddoos to Hanumanji.”
I missed her voice, her message, her faith in Hanumanji helping me pass my exams. I missed mattering so intimately — as if my exams were Mom’s tests.
Every time I thought of her, the lights in my bathroom flickered. I took that as a sign of mom communicating with me and letting me know it was going to be OK. Yes, I am a child of science, but I am also a grieving daughter always looking for signs even after eight years of my mom’s passing.
I have spoken with over a dozen friends and family members who have lost their mothers. Each one of them said the same thing:
“I lost my sense of belonging and essence of family after my mom passed away.”
It’s true. No one keeps a family together the way a mother does. Their uninhibited opinions and statements and interference and unsolicited advice and recommendations. It’s the glue that keeps most of us in check and alive. It’s the motherly initiative of ignoring boundaries that brings families closer.
My mother once asked why I hadn’t accepted a Facebook friend request from a family friend.
Haha. This is when my mother didn’t even have a social media presence. I miss asking her questions only she can answer – like how it mattered whether or not I had accepted someone’s Facebook friend request. But she was a mom and had the perpetual license to make comments, ask questions, and give suggestions. I miss that!
In my motherless world, I am the caretaker. I check in on others. I make sure my dad is doing well. Are my in-laws doing OK? Remembering birthdays and anniversaries of extended family members.
Don’t get me wrong; I have incredible people in my life. My husband doesn’t shut down when I talk about emotions and feelings. My point: there is no one like mom and her desire to know about even the ordinariness of my every day. Knowing whether and what I had eaten for dinner brought happiness to her face.
So, here is what I have done: I formed a community – a strong, tight, loving, and reliable tribe of female friends and cousins where we show up for each other no matter what’s going on in our lives.
On the day of my exam, I woke up to so many beautiful messages and wishes from them. One of my older cousin’s sisters sent me hugs, Sai Baba’s picture, and good wishes at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of my exams.
My close girlfriends showed me (when I was having a tough time believing) how good I am and why I would do well on my exams. A cousin gave me a blanket that I could wrap myself in after the exams. Another friend offered besan laddoos to Hanumanji, keeping Mom’s tradition alive. The stories go on.
I’m not sharing any of this as a brag about my circle of trusted women. I do it to remind you that we all want to feel visible and thought about, so it’s our responsibility to surround ourselves with love. For the longest time, I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t know how. Literally. I have always been an adult in every relationship. I have lived away from home most of my life.
People told me their problems and shared their secrets, and I became the appointed nurturer in every relationship. Many assume I don’t need their support. But, in playing a grieving daughter, caretaker, healer, writer, supporter of women’s rights, trauma-informed yoga teacher, and many more intense roles. I found myself feeling exhausted, broken, lost, and sick.
Here are some truisms to live by:
- You cannot keep giving love without receiving any in return.
- You don’t have to do it alone.
- Be sure to find your like-minded, trustworthy travelers in this journey.
- Reach out and communicate what you need.
- Vulnerability can be liberating, remember.
- Hold space and show up, like moms.
- When the mind plays tricks, say I’m worthy of love.
- Don’t expect those not in your shoes to understand your story.
- Nurture and appreciate the relationships that make a difference in your life.
I can’t believe the New Year is here. Hope you make your emotional well-being and personal needs a high priority. I wish you a community of support and unconditional love.
Healing comes in waves, like grief, and you don’t have to drown in it. Healthy relationships — those that are mutually caring and giving — are necessary for our mental well-being, emotional healing, and personal success.
“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” ~ Joseph F. Newton Men