I had never seen a flatlined electrocardiogram in my entire life until the morning of August 22, 2017.
The long beep, a flatline and a strong woman lying lifeless in bed number 10 of an ICU. It was my twin sister of 37 years – Monika. Someone I had shared the same genetic code with for three decades. Someone I had never imagined would leave me behind so early in life. Someone I had shared an unfathomable bond with. Someone I could not live without.
Only a few hours before that she had talked about celebrating our 60th birthday in Goa. And here I was, gazing at her hoping she would blink or move her fingers. But it was all too late.
My sister had died from cancer. A three-year long, fierce battle had come to an end.
What followed next was a Tsunami of grief. The same pattern that most with grief experience – denial, a feeling of being wronged by destiny and so much anger.
She used to be my mother in the skin of a sister. A pillar I would lean on in pain and dance with when happy. She was everything to me. Her passing put me through an identity crisis I cannot express in words.
For four months I didn’t look into the mirror. I was scared to do so. She and I looked so identical that every time I saw my own reflection, it reminded me of my loss even more.
During the same time, my marriage too had nose dived into a divorce. No divorces are pleasant. In this case, it came soon after my sister’s demise. With the grief that the loss of my twin sister brought along, came the terrible phase where I felt inadequate and low on self-esteem. Perhaps these emotions are normal for those who undergo a divorce. My life was swept by an ocean of crises.
As a result of what transpired all together, I slipped into depression. This demon had no face. It came unannounced and fed on my zest for life. I began to live in a hopeless space. I dreaded to wake up and see the day light. I loved the moment I’d go to bed but subconsciously refused to sleep. After all sleep would usher in the morning, and I didn’t want to face another day.
One morning it was drizzling. It was very cold that morning. Wrapped in gloom and the blanket, I gazed outside the window. A money plant outside the windowpane was dancing to the rhythm of the bone chilling breeze outside. My eyes fell upon a solitary droplet of water which stayed on the windowpane for a second and skidded down. I was observing that journey of the droplet, when my phone buzzed. It flashed a Facebook memory where my twin sister had tagged me to a post. Which said ‘Our faith, Our Courage must win’. A handwritten note by my sister who had penned those words six months before her passing.
Something in me changed at that very moment. A strange form of resilience shone through my soul. I felt that my sister had blown life into my cold being. Everything felt miraculously hopeful and warm. I realised how so many people at that very moment were battling for their lives and were ready to barter anything they had, in order to live some more. I realised how precious my life was.
Mizuta Masahide a 17th century Japanese poet and samurai had once said, “My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.”
It is not that my grief was over with that profound realisation. The grief was very much there. It is just that I could see my moon shine through the burned barn.
From here began a journey of strength and inspiration. I decided to draw strength from my grief and inspire myself each day to achieve the best I could for my life.
I took over my sister’s mission of providing hope to cancer warriors in the form of Stronger Than Cancer – a Facebook page she had started to augment the cause of hope for cancer warriors.
Not only that, I took the cause of cancer survival awareness to Mount Everest Base Camp at 5365meters above mean sea level, through a gruelling fifteen-day trek.
I also completed my Grandmaster level training in Reiki in order to heal myself and others.
Not only that, I lost 17 kgs of weight and got into focussed training to prepare myself for my first mountaineering expedition to Mera peak in Nepal. The twenty-one-day expedition was scheduled to begin on April 1. The pandemic has pushed the expedition to the back burner, but my motivation is still high. I will attempt the same next year if all goes well. I began writing columns for opinion websites and began to dream all over again.
I still go through my lows. I still swing into emotional eating. I still put on weight and shed some. I still sit in front of the picture of my twin sister and cry like a miserable soul. I still feel numb from grief. And I still find it hard to wake up on some mornings.
The beauty is that I have learned the art of not expecting too much from myself and take each day as it comes. I don’t struggle too much to be that perfect human being who can never make a mistake. I accept that I am a normal human being who can falter. I just learnt to not give up.
I use my grief as an inspiration to respect what I have and accept what I don’t. I internalised what my sister used to say always, “Change what you can change. Don’t struggle to change what you cannot.” I aspire to be that normal human being who stumbles, falls, rises, dusts themselves off and then does it all again, unfailingly, again and again, every day.
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