The loss of a loved one is hard. Period. A lost of one’s memory, especially a South Asian parent, is a feeling that consumes us so deeply in those moments, often bittersweet in nature.
Many of you reading this have or had parents who left their homeland to provide a better life for you or the “future” they planned to have. Can you imagine leaving everything you know, and traveling thousands of miles to a new land encompassed by a new culture so different to everything you have ever known? Can you imagine leaving your family, your home, and everything you have known all your life just for your children? I cannot.
Sacrifice is a pillar of South Asian parents.
Some of you reading this may have left your parents or a parent in a South Asian country for the same reason. Can you imagine how much they must miss you? You are not exactly a short drive away. Do they ever complain? It is doubtful.
Do you remember all of the times they would forego something for themselves so that you would have something you wanted? This sacrifice is what makes it so hard to lose a South Asian parent. Not only did they raise you (which is no small feat), but they gave up so much for you. No complaints will be made, however because that does not go hand in hand with people who give so much of themselves.
I have lost both of my parents. No, I am not in my fifties. I am relatively young––not even middle-aged. Please do not pity me. Please do not say “I cannot imagine being her.”
I am strong––all thanks to the way I was raised. If you have not already, you too will lose your parents one day, and I hope you possess the same strength I did during that difficult time. And please, don’t say you understand, even if you have lost a family member or faced a different struggle. We are all individuals with individual life experiences. Still, I hurt, so can you hold my hand and ask me if I need to cry? Can you laugh with me, dance with me, or mail me a handwritten letter to let me know you are there? Can you support me?
For those who do know this loss, in trying to cope often wonder- Why did it happen? Sometimes, we ask, why did it happen so soon? How do I cope? What have I done in my life to deserve this? Family, friends, our religious beliefs, and our other support systems are definitely the key way to get through any loss.
I have found, though, that fulfillment is also therapeutic. Whether you find this sense of purpose in life through your children, career, volunteer work, therapy, travel, cooking, journaling, gardening or any other number of interests, I beseech you to follow those passions. Follow them with abandon and energy. For, as you know, life is fleeting. We breathe in one moment and not the next.
What I can share as being the greatest source of peace for me is the fact that our parents have not gone anywhere. They are here. Your mother’s bright smile sits on your sister’s face and your father’s large eyes on your other sister.
You share your mother’s passion for writing and reflecting. Your nieces have your mother’s kind nature, and your son has your father’s intelligence. You hear someone use a phrase your mother or father used to say or find yourself saying it the same way. The photos and the videos you keep awaken memories of your parents, and those memories keep them alive. You can see their eyes smiling, and hear their voices ringing. The watch your father wore every day sits on your dresser.
Remembering them keeps them alive and that’s what keeps me strong.
Anita Kharbhanda is a mother, wife, reader, writer, singer, and runner. She loves the laughter of children, strong characters, and sweet foods. She wears her family and culture like badges of honor