I can't take it anymore. I can't. It’s just too much.
Each hair on my head hurts at its very root. I have people to talk to but I know what they are going to say and I don't want to hear that.
I don’t know what my mind needs to hear to free me from this constant ache in my heart.
It was the morning of October 19th, 2017; the early hours when the sun was not out. As I lay on the recliner outside the ICU, praying endlessly for a slight glimpse of a silver lining, my heart was not in its supposed place.
I took out my cell and dialled a few people. One of them was my roommate-cum-friend from college while the others were my best gal pals and closest friends. I could sense that something was going to go wrong. My mind was not at peace.
I had to ask them if I’d done the right thing; the right thing by letting them put my mother on ventilator despite her constant refusal.
I was helpless and so was she. My mother knew the whole drill; how could she not when she'd constantly been at my late father’s bedside when he was on the ventilator for more than a month. An hour earlier, she was holding my hand against her chest and asking me not to cry as that would affect my eye. And just an hour later she was on the ventilator, sedated. It all happened so quickly.
No one could have predicted it; especially with the way my mother spoke from her bed in the hospital.
Her doctors were shocked too. Yes, her condition was deteriorating but we thought there was time to administer drugs, some other potent drugs.
It’s like my brain has notoriously saved every detail from that day in the ICU, especially my last hours with her, just to torture me till my last breath.
It was the morning of October 18th, 2017 when my mother had to be shifted to the ICU because her oxygen saturation level was falling quickly. Even in that situation, she asked my aunt not to inform us because my sibling and I had gone to our other aunt's house for the night.
But we spoke to her doctor's resident on the phone and rushed to the hospital. My mother looked at my elder sibling and the first thing she said was, "Aaj itne jaldi kyun uth gaye?"
Being a medical student, I could completely understand how she felt from within, medically, but she didn't give us any hint that she was in pain except for her breathlessness.
The ICU doctor informed me that her lungs were in distress and her arterial blood gas level and carbon dioxide was rising up. My mind froze after looking at her X-ray from that morning. That was my mother; I couldn’t refer to the literature in the medical books, so I ran to the other top chest physician.
As I ran hurriedly, I clearly remember my mother saying, “Mera purse lekar jaana. Bina paise ke koi kaam nahi hota hai." I heard what the other physician had to say and returned to my mother. When she saw me again, she asked "Kuch khaya subah se?"
When I started telling her what the other doctor had said, she nodded her head and told me that she had already been put on a femoral line and catheter.
Her brain was so quick. How could I have known that she wouldn't even make it to the 24th hour?
When I was asked to give my consent for the ventilator, I felt numb. I couldn't lift the pen. But I somehow did it. Then I was asked to leave the ICU, as they prepared to put the arterial line.
She didn't want me to leave and I hate myself for not trying harder when I was made to.
By the time they finished, it was evening. When I finally went inside, I was informed that her blood gas level was not good. Her respiratory rate was beyond the normal limit. Yet again, I didn't think about the literature in the book and kept praying for a sign that she was going to be fine. I slipped my palm into her hand and stood by her bed. The continuous beep of the monitor was piercing my heart.
But my mother was mentally sound and gratefully, her hands had enough strength to hold my palm tightly against her chest.
She told me whom she wanted to speak to, and what she wanted us to do. She told my elder sibling who was in tears that Indira Gandhi wore black goggles to her son's funeral to prevent the world from seeing her tears. She told us to be strong.
That's what my mother said an hour before getting on the ventilator, so how could I have ever predicted that she wouldn't be there till the next day to tell us other stories of brave leaders. It was 8.15 p.m. when they told me that she needed to be put on the ventilator because of the significant rise in the carbon dioxide level in her body.
I understood what that meant and at the same time, I knew from the statistics that the chances of getting her back from the ventilator were less than 5%.
But this was my mother. I couldn't even let that thought enter my mind. I was not being optimistic but I was desperately praying to the Almighty through my Khwaja (whom I have full faith in) and begging him not to take her from me, not so soon.
I hadn't even finished college yet. All her work was left mid-way. Every person associated with her through work and emotions and blood was expecting her home. So I prayed helplessly, chanting dua after dua. But the miracle didn't happen and finally, a team of doctors surrounded her bed, which woke her from her little nap.
I had requested her to close her eyes and sleep, assuring her that she would find me by her side when she opened her eyes again. She had barely rested for an hour or so when she was awakened because of the doctors around her.
She knew what they wanted to do to her. She had understood it and started resisting, as she didn't want to be put on the ventilator.
She scolded me for not obeying her; she tried bribing my elder sibling and said that she would give him money if he took her home. She scolded my younger maasi for not taking her words seriously and explained the end results of being on a ventilator to my elder maasi. All of us were helpless. I was terrified and confused.
If I didn't let them put her on the ventilator, she would crash any time. And if I did let them do it, the chances of her getting back from it were so slim.
And to top this mental dilemma, my mother was resisting it. I didn't know what to do. I was helpless and lost, I was scared of losing her and was also terrified of my mother's scolding. My mind shut down. I didn't want to upset her. Whenever we fought or argued, both of us would cry and ultimately patch up.
But this time around, I didn't want her to get upset with me, which made it very hard for me to take the right decision.
I'm 25, which makes me an adult but a month ago I wasn't this mature girl. Her heart could have gone into arrest any time so they sedated her and put her on the ventilator. In the middle of the night, I spoke to her doctor who advised me to give her that 'less than 5% chance'.
My mind was silenced but my heart was scared about my mother’s reaction after she regained consciousness.
It was 12.30 a.m. on October 19th when they left her and said, "It's done. We have put her on the machine." I asked them if I could see her but they told me to wait until the next morning. It was around 4 a.m. when I was called inside and asked to inform my relatives because my mother was not showing any improvement.
Before entering the ICU, both my aunts cried uncontrollably but I didn't let a single tear roll down my cheeks. I called my elder sibling who had gone to rest at my aunt's place. He was startled but I didn't tell him why I needed him to come back. I think he knew but we didn't say anything to each other.
It was around 5.15 a.m. when a doctor in a blue scrub stopped me from entering the ICU, as I was preparing to get on a video call with my cousins and make them see my mother.
His words, "We are performing CPR now", were more than enough for me to know what was going to happen next.
I sat on the nearest sofa in the room adjoining the ICU and informed my cousin on the phone. Minutes passed by and when the ICU door opened, the doctor said, "She is no more." I stood there tearless. I couldn't cry.
I wanted to cry but at that moment, my tears cheated me.
I feel a cold ache in my heart, as I type this into words. What happened after that is not important. All I knew was my mother wasn't there, and she was all that I had for a parent. Who would I fight with now? Who would understand my smallest need? Who would smile and wake me every morning? Who?
My heart twisted in pain but there were no tears.
We flew her back to our ancestral place to put her to rest. Most of the people told me that I was being so brave, as I wasn't crying when they took her for burial. They exclaim, “Is she the daughter? She is so strong for holding up this firmly!” What they don't know is that I haven’t been able to close my eyes for weeks after that.
I'm scared of the night when everyone is asleep and there is only silence around.
I don't cry in front of my sibling because that will upset him too. Each time we argued, our mother would tell us to take care of each other because that's what brothers and sisters do. He is all I have now. I need to look after him and he has to take care of me. So I can’t cry. I have other responsibilities too.
I am the woman of the house now. People look up to me, so how can I cry in front of them?
I can't cry in front of my aunts because they lost a sister with whom they had grown up. There is no one with whom I can cry freely. But when it gets too much to endure, I close myself in my room and cry helplessly. I'm scared of going down in sajda because at that moment, I break down completely and fail to control myself, which later hurts my eye.
My heart feels heavy, so heavy like a ton of weight has been placed on my chest. I kill my time on Facebook and watch YouTube videos on how to cope up with grief. My emotions make no sense to me.
There are times when I want to do something uplifting and not get engulfed by the sorrow but the very next minute, I feel that there is no strength in my legs.
I’m unable to move; I'm lost. I'm waiting to go back to college and hoping that helps me escape this pain. Going forward, I don't know how my life is going to be. I've learned not to plan or keep any expectations in life.
I'm suffering from a lung infection and although I've regained physical strength with the medicines, I’m scared for myself especially with everything that has happened with my mother.
I'm not scared of dying but damn; I haven’t done anything in life.
I don't have any plan for myself but if I'm lucky and if my prayers are heard this time, I wish to get some happiness. I'm so scared of becoming a physician now because I'm terrified of monitors and the sound they make. My whole body shivers while looking at a scrub and the ICU.
I'm scared because I feel that I don't have it in my heart anymore to live among monitors, wires, drips, masks, and scrubs.
I can't tell this to my relatives. I wish I had someone who would just listen to me and assure me that I can still make it. I feel so lonely and wish that I had someone to love me and to tell me that I'm going to be okay; everything is going to be okay.
I hope that someday, I find that love where I can put everything to rest and let my tears flow and relieve the tension wringing my chest.
I'm 25, and I've lived through almost every emotion. So I'm hoping that I'll survive this too. I know this because I know that my mother is right here, among us. I can always feel her presence near me.
I wish I could somehow tell her that I loved her as much as I loved Daddy and I missed him all the time because he was not with us. But now she’s gone too and I miss her terribly.