Even a smile sheds tears.
Even a smile sheds tears.
Today, exactly four weeks after my beautiful died I’m at the old people’s ashram.
In memory of Manjula we’re gifting all today’s meals. I’ve arrived an hour early so it’s time to chill, remember and reflect and in a very limited way feed my addiction to share with you guys.
Back in Siddarthanagar smileys have appeared on the road, overnight.
Using stencils and water soluble spray paints they are another simple way to discreetly and publically remember and acknowledge.
There’s a fair amount of sweeping goes on at the ashram.
Checking out Manjula
So far I’ve found three buckets (pails) of grief. As I share this, I realise that it might resonate with your own experiences. (See I’m moving on from me me me). As you know, I’m new to this. Maybe it might help others, who knows?
In bucket one is the stuff you just can’t avoid. The absolute challenges which you face when your loved one dies. The sudden trauma, the shock, the breathlessness of the realisation that she’s gone. Bam
Just like that! A wacking great big black hole.
No matter how much you think you prepare, or plan or maybe you had realised what might happen. …… It’s not enough. It has actually happened and you’ve just got to deal with it.
Your personal resilience might help, your belief system (they’re still here and gone onto greater things?) could wrap it up nicely, time will also be the proverbial healer, or so they say. My mate Tom says it’s like walking down or further away from the hill, you see more of the total picture and put it in perspective.
Bottom line is…. You ‘choose’ how to deal with it.
In the second bucket is the grief you can give yourself. You know the sort of thing. The what ifs? The guilt trips. The preoccupations. Missed opportunities. Recriminations. Regrets. The whispers you ignored. The stress.
In my view, this is the big challenge and again you choose. In this case you can maybe control how much you open the tap and fill the bucket.
So how much angst is there to be?
I don’t live a life with regrets but this is a whole different ball game. The smallest chink of light, the smallest possibility to catch the grief and you’ve got it. It’s hard.
In my and Manjula’s situation.
We’ve been dealing with a series of serious illnesses for over three years. I wonder if we could have handled it differently. More regular tests, quicker responsiveness to trying new things, better lifestyle such as exercises, different opinions, complementary medicines. I know though that it was very tough for Manjula, she hated the tests (usually with disapppinting results) the clinic merry go round, the manic mother hen husband, the too many tablets.
The second main choosing-to-give -myself-grief issue is how well we used the last twelve months.
After a spell in intensive care a year ago and her unhappy experience on a ventilator she was given another lease of life. I look back at the photos. We sort of had the old Manjula. After six months she began to lose weight, they thought she might have TB and her drugs didn’t seem to work. She was slipping away and I just didn’t know what to do.
At the end she’d had a heart attack and real difficulty breathing. This was on the Friday evening. They’d resuscitated her and not intubated her in line with my (her) request. On the Saturday morning she had another heart attack. Immediately before we managed to discuss and she only wanted to be on ventilator if it was a day or two. There was a real likelihood she would never be able to come off it. I decided to let her go.
We did do good things. We have so many happy memories.
She was keen to properly celebrate her birthday in August, she wanted to continue the BnB even as she lost more weight and lived between her bed, the downstairs lounge and outdoor sit out. She loved and livened up when meeting the guests.
We managed a final holiday in Kannur, the site of our first holiday together after becoming engaged three years ago.
Our time was precious. We had a wonderful, odd maybe but amazing relationship. From different worlds but all the better for it.
In that final year there were times we both knew where it was heading. Manjula would once or twice talk about death. Me forever the coward didn’t want that, couldn’t deal with it and worried that might in itself help bring it on. We had to remain positive. We should however have discussed it properly. Some might say I was in complete denial.
We seem to choose whether and how much to give ourselves the grief in bucket two, maybe not even the time of day or perhaps the full flow.
I realise now it’s useful to create your own narrative or ways of fathoming it all out. It requires a balanced view. I think we did the best in the circumstances.
Bottom line is ‘it’s how it is’
In bucket three the grief is more existential. What’s the purpose or point in life? What happens when we ‘move-on’ ?
That can remain with its lid on!
So now as we approach The fourth week since Manjula died we have a few more things to do to help her on the way.
It may now be time to step aside from the angst. It’ll still keep popping up but I’ll hold it with me
I thank you for allowing me to share and your kindness, patience and support by being there for me and Manjula.
Next I plan to bring you herstory.
Yes, I’ll lighten up…
I recognise how difficult it can be to keep track of the mish mash of postings. I’ve therefore put together a sort of index list of the most recent postings about Manjula.
I’ve found it it a real help to share my feelings at this very difficult time, the openness reflects the sort of life we’ve created and the amazing family (yes you) we now have throughout the world. I know its not always easy reading. Your support, feedback and encouragement has been great. Its early days of course to decide what happens next but I may continue to post but in a different way, to bring to you some of the stories of her life that Manjula has shared with me.
So to help you see what I’ve recently posted here’s a list (with links) from March and April, a very very difficult time.
Team Briefing 17th March, link here
This came about as Manjula in a heartfelt way was worried that she couldn’t do any of the things she’d previously done. its her recognising how things were changing and my attempt to help Manjula recognise her continuing value and the priorities in her life. Links with Manjula taking back control on 29th March link here which I wrote a few days after she’d died. its here
Lucky 23rd March link here an old man recognising he’s so fortunate and first announcing the sad news,
Thank you 24th March the statement I made on the Saturday with friends and family gathered to say farewell and a lovely video of her talking to camera here
Manjula captured my heart here’s a graphic of a birthday card I made for her based on some famous graffiti by Banksy, in the original the little girl loses the heart but not in this case! check here
Missing Manjula 1 a couple of examples of friends comments and photos with an appeal to send more examples, its here
I’ve been so touched by the many many many emails, messages, postings from around the world. I’m also not surprised. Sorry but as yet, Ive not managed to reply to everyone and want yo do it personally. Its also proving to be a bit difficult to work out what to do …. There may be Missing Manjula 2 might be a posting or might be a book of highlights!
Do follow to see what happens.
Bereft and Tearful, says it all, reflecting from a Mysore Park and wanting help here
The follow up about continuing Manjula’s creation and how we’d like you to get involved is here please do see if you can help …… by following the blog or coming to be part….
Ashi Vasarjan the ceremony where I immersed Manjula’s ashes in the Kaveri river at Paschivahimi. Great video although some might find it a bit hard. Its here
It’s a hot hot day, Manjula’s brother and his wife come back to Mysore to discuss preparations for the very significant 11th day. It’s not straightforward. details of that meeting are here
The 11th day, here, was itself quite a challenge, its an important event but the dynamic of they only discovering we were married at the Ashi Vasarjan added to the complexity of the situation and wasn’t helped by their attempts to try and get anything of value to sell!! (exactly why Manjula didn’t want us to the tell them about our marriage)
Tender, my true love a few soppy words from a lover here, (What is this man like?) the photo is in our lounge and was decorated with fresh photos every day. There’s now a lovely photo of the beautiful Manjula on each floor with a special sandal wood garland thing.
An important part of the Hindu rituals at this time is to give and offer food. On the 11th day food was offered to Manjula (plenty of meat, its me that was the veggie) as part of the Pooja this food was also taken on to the roof for the birds to eat. That’s symbolic and shows that Manjula has eaten and its part of the process of helping her move on and her spirit finding a new resting place. We also offered food on her behalf, to others by paying for meals at an Ashram, a home for older people, it was lovely and its here.
As you will have noticed there has been tremendous help and support not least from Tom and Amy who flew in from Malaysia when they’d heard about Manjula’s death. They stayed for two weeks and have been incredible support, I couldn’t have managed without them. We first met them when visiting us as guests years ago, they’ve now been here three times this year! Last year Tom filmed our wedding and Amy was the celebrant who created the whole ceremony. Satish, Tanuja and Vasanth have been sorting out the whole series of things we’ve had to and been very tolerant of the English man’s crazy requests. Others have just spontaneously helped such as the team from Royal Mysore Walks (aka Gully Tours) who brought breakfast round one morning. Super there have been some many great was to remember our Manjula.
I love my stick insect and she did get a bit thin with one of her videos showing her character and humour. its here
Manjula has changed me in so many ways, it has well and truly taken me out of my comfort zone now, but it also did challenge me over the last few years of helping her through her illnesses. It cannot in any way detract from our nine years together that has been an illuminating joy. Here’s one take on what I think she has done in creating our home and in becoming my wife. If I can get my head around it and improve my writing I hope to share more of that story. The challenge is to be entertaining and accessible in my writing, erm!
I realise that in the land of ‘nothing ever works as planned’ Manjula has been my golden key, my ‘get out of jail free card’, I’m now alone but check here she’s also been my and others boss, even demanding peaches being brought from the U.K.
This whole awful experience has got me thinking in so many different ways, its a bumpy road with bumps, rocks, pot holes, mental turmoil and the grief we receive as part of the process and ‘choose’ to give ourselves….What about swopping places? gives a bit more insight here
I hope that helps you make sense of what has been posted so you can choose to check through anything you’ve missed and get a more coherent story.
We’re out on our morning walk and stopped to sit reflect and write in one of the many local parks.
There’s a guy wandering around the park. There are two friendly boys following.
What is he doing?
In his bag there’s a series of containers with what seems to be powders, seeds and maybe even snacky things.
He’s distributing little piles all over the park.
Piles of powder on the ground Crunchy stuff on top of the walls.
He’s feeding the insects and the birds.
I’m assuming he’s a Jain, doing good things particularly for the animals and that can’t be too bad for his Karma and future incarnation!
A kindly neighbour loaned me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita with a recommendation to read the section on death. It helps illuminate the ‘matter of factness’ of the Hindu approach. As wordly family we shouldn’t get too attached as the spirit lives on ….. the spirit moves on to another body and as it progresses becomes part of the greater whole. We’ve done the main rituals and send our positive vibes hoping Manjula has found her new home. We know she deserves a good one.
It is with untold sadness we celebrate my beautiful Manjula. She came into my life just nine years ago…..Worried that there was no electric mixer/grinder in the kitchen.
You might never imagine from meeting and experiencing her and the spark she created the trail of positiveness she left, how difficult her life had been from the very first second after birth.
Not only has she been able to blossom and grow she has had an impressive lasting impact on all she met and especially on the gruff Yorkshireman.
Manjula’s spark, her warm and welcoming personality, her openess, the richness that she brought to her relationships with everyone, the connectedness she created with people around the world is of course one part of this rich picture.
She transformed my life and now I have an immeasurable gap.
It’s not that I haven’t known this was coming, we’ve known for years that it might be touch and go and her life might be tragically cut short.
She would often joke that nine years ago she came as my maid and now I’m her maid, so true in so many ways. In particular in these last few months when she lost so much weight and had to deal with one problem after another.
She’s not only learned English, non of it from me, she’d hasten to add, she also took on her own brand of English humour. A joker yes, quick witted but warm caringly connecting.
Good things don’t always last but me and the many many people here and around the world we’re touched by this extraordinary woman and celebrate her intensity.
For that I’m blessed I will forever cherish the time, our experiences, the lessons I’ve learned and the love we shared.
Thank you my darling, my precious, my love.
Your husband Stephen
I relayed this during Pooja at our house with Manjula resting outside. Immediately afterwards Manjula was taken to the crematorium.
It was an important statement to celebrate Manjula and our relationship.
She was only a little mite but even in a very short time has left a gaping hole.
I first heard her yelping as we passed during one of our MYCycle Tours on Srirangapatnam. It was as if one of the guys at a chai shop was teasing or hurting her. I sort of adopted her. For the next week, I saw her every time we passed by.
First impressions were not good. She was slow, almost subdued, had what seemed to be a scar on her head, was pretty run down and a couple of days later was completely covered in fleas. I fed her with milk each time and the locals, who have got to know me over the years realised she was adopted. Typical firangi! She seemed to be really very young but was already lapping up her milk. Her mother was nowhere to be seen. Pups are often cruelly separated and dumped. I treated her and got rid of the fleas. I decided to kidnap her (no one gave a damn) and took her to People for Animals ‘rescue centre’ aka death camp. ( a bit unfair but the level of illness and death is known to be high).
Ruby, as she became known with variants of Too, two and tue…. was left at the rescue centre for a check up and treatment but not for too long. It’s a lovely place with caring staff and volunteers but a lot of illness for puppies. I brought her home after a week. That in itself was a quandary. Should I have left her there for longer? What would the women of the household think?
At first she seemed to be managing OK. Eating, although not very much, the quantity of worms she expelled was amazing. This was the first of three lots. Her means of carriage, the princesses pumpkin with handles aka the shopping bag was ideal and endlessly entertained the local children. They couldn’t believe it when they noticed her little head popping out, I have of course reinforced their view that foreigners are more than a bit weird,
Lucie and Ruby’s relationship was a ‘work in progress’ they generally kept a discreet distance.
She developed a cough and chest infection, laboured breathing, running nose and constant diarrhoea. We seem to be at the vets every other day. They’ve stuffed her with antibiotics, a drip and minerals to rehydrate, vitamins, powder to stop the shits you name it, she’s had it. Michael-virtual-vet-Heath, in Australia was advising from afar. Back at home I created a den out of a cardboard box with a lovely bed with pillow, blanket and neat little door to get in and out. As things seemed to be getting worse I’d just nurse her. Manjula reckons for most of the day. Then the three of us would go out on our Adams family jaunts.
On reflection if might have been better for her to stay longer at the centre and perhaps she was too vulnerable even for the bath. Who really knows. We did our best but for our lovely Ruby the roller coaster ride is over.
We now are left with fond memories and are pleased we could spend that precious time together.
Manjula who was all no-no-no (she was the same with Billi) was won over after just a few days.
It helps me realise together with some of our other experiences (this is not the most challenging by any means) , what a hard life it can be here and how important it is to make the most of it.
so this is just the latest example of …. it’s been a bit of a weird year, more of that later.