The Last 24 hours…
The morning of 4th January, 2013 dawned like any other day for Prabha. As usual it had been a very restless night, alternating between bouts of pain and unsound sleep. After a cup of tea and some medication she went back to sleep.
Around 9.30 am she got up and asked my daughter Sowmya to replay the video of my granddaughter Uthara’s maiden Carnatic music concert held five days earlier, on her laptop.
The solo performance was to be a part of the grand dinner get-together I had planned for my 70th Birth Day, and had even booked the Tag Centre for it. Unfortunately the programme had to be cancelled because of Prabha`s health, and she was feeling bad about it. So when Sowmya decided to come to Chennai with her children to spend time with her mother, the idea of having the solo performance resurfaced. We decided to have it at a local Perumal temple on Sunday 30th Dec,2012, in the presence of a small group of friends and relatives.
Prabha was eagerly looking forward to the event and was worried that she may not be able to make it because of her failing health and mobility. I reassured her that come-what- may she would attend the function. On the day of the event a special wheel chair was hired to ensure that she was mobile enough to attend. In the video taken on the occasion, we can see her listening to the programme entranced by the wonderful performance of her granddaughter.
On the last day of her life Prabha listened to this programme a couple of times reliving those wonderful moments.
After an otherwise uneventful day, in the evening she sat on a chair in the dining room and watched her four grandchildren running around and playing. When it was time for them to leave, to my elder daughter Kavita’s home nearby, she insisted on hugging, kissing and blessing each one of them. Even at that point, the family did not imagine that her end would come within a few hours.
Obviously it was in the middle of the night she had a premonition that she was going to leave the world soon. She got up around 1.00 am and asked my daughter to bring a pad and a pen as she wanted to write something. Going through the illegible writing later, I guessed that she was trying to say something about wanting a natural death. Subsequently, this is what she tried to tell me in person.
Around 2.00 am when I came to relieve my daughter so that she could rest for some time, Prabha told me that she did not want, what had happened to a friend`s mother, happen to her. She mentioned the friend by name and recalled that his mother was under life support system in a hospital and was refused a glass of water because she would die if the tubes were removed. I assured her that we would respect her wish and would not put her through such an ordeal.
I also told her that she cannot leave us so soon because she had to attend the Golden Jubilee function of Inner wheel Club of Madras South scheduled a couple of weeks later, as she was a Past President of the Club and they were going to honour her. She gave me a weak smile and said she would try to attend. Immediately afterwards, she asked me for a glass of water which she sipped slowly with relish.
The next two hours I spent with her talking and trying to put her to sleep. She was alternating between hallucination and normal conversation. She kept asking about our son Balaji who had gone to Trichy on official work and was expected back that morning. When she dozed off to sleep, I left Prabha in the care of the nurse and Sowmya and went to catch up an hour’s sleep.
During the hour when I was away she woke up and told Sowmya that she was leaving the world because her mother was calling her. (Her mother had passed away in March 2011 at the age of 89). She also asked Sowmya if she would miss her.
When I came back at 5.00 am and asked her if she would like to have a cup of tea, she said ‘yes’ but insisted on brushing her teeth before drinking it. When I started giving her the tea ,she became angry with me for rushing her into drinking the tea fast and asked my daughter to take over. I did not realise then that it was to be the last admonition I was to receive from her for my impatience.
At 5.30 am, at her request, the TV was switched on and she was delighted to see a picture of Lord Balaji appear on the screen. With folded hands and closed eyes she worshipped the visual. Her piety and devotion gave her strength even at these last moments of her life.
Then she went to the toilet and as she came out she was sweating profusely. I realised that she may be having a heart attack and just as I was considering taking her to the hospital, my son walked in. Her face brightened when she saw him, she held his hands and kissed it and as he supported her with his arms, suddenly her breathing became heavy. We tried to place the `nebuliser’ in position, but she was beginning to lose consciousness. All of us started shouting her name and tried to shake her back to consciousness but it had no effect. In a few minutes she breathed her last with her eyes and mouth open. Prabha was no more…
My daughter, son and I were standing around her when she passed away with the religious discourse on her favourite `Lord Rama` playing in the background.
Prabha did not live to see our 41st wedding anniversary on 26th January,2013.
On our return from Kashmir in April last year, Prabha wrote a very interesting travelogue in Tamil, in which she mentioned her childhood dream of visiting Kashmir one day, becoming a reality. The title of the story was Dreams become a reality and reality has now become a dream.
I realised that the reality of our wonderful life together for 41 years had now become a dream!
I can only live with her memories for the rest of my life.
(This is the second of the three part article I had promised on Prabha. The last article will be on our experience with Adyar Cancer Institute (headed by the Magasaysay Award winner Dr.Shantha) where she was treated. It will take sometime as I intend to research the subject before I write the piece.)