She wasn’t sure what was more out of the ordinary, the medicines or the cake.
The medicines have been her companion for a strong 20 months now. The pills and syrups along with the injections and other high doses now represent her life in it’s crude glory – a battle everyday to survive. She popped in more medicines in a day than most do in months. The sudden diagnosis led to the beginning of a whole new way of life, adrift from a totally different life prior to it.
Then there was the cake, in the hospital. A small, modest one, with a tag of ‘Happy Birthday’ and a cherry on top. It was reminiscent of the better past, when she was a normal girl – studying, working and enjoying her life. It was almost like the disease was other worldly, and her life span had been divided into two distinct timelines – Before Casualty and After Disease.
It reminded her of her father, who was a soldier on the borders; and whose life threatened to create a similar bifurcation. Every evening she would wait for his call, the lonely man thirsty for the voice of the apple of his eye. She was too young then, and the call only meant the few minutes when the father and the daughter were together, but as she grew up, she realised that the call was the daily reminder that her father was still alive, at least until the next call.
One day though, the call did come, but it wasn’t him.
The dawn of the single parent in her mother, and the fatherless child in her made her grow up quicker than it was fair. But fair isn’t how life is, she had understood that by now. It was supposed to be a new beginning, learning to work the unicycle when she was so used to the bicycle.
She wasn’t really at terms with her new life when the disease struck. Her mother did come form a wealthy family and could afford her medications. But life was never going to be the same again.
She figured that life was a series of different beginnings till the end. Of all sorts. She wasn’t sure about the endings, but she tried to focus on the beginnings. Much more optimism. Some beginnings were voluntary, while she never realised when some onsets occurred. Some made her feel happy and ecstatic and there were some which dampened things extensively. They began and continued until something else began, and what had begun was now water under the bridge.
Love had it own beginnings, when he showed up every day at her hospital bed. His charm could make her smile even felt she didn’t feel like it, and often they talked into the night. But he became erratic, and when she actually began to look out for him she had to wistfully look away to the chair he would sit on. He fell in love with her quickly, and fell out of her love quicker. She took time to fall in love with him and is taking her time to fall out. She had underestimated his ability to fall in love, and he had underestimated her capacity to stay in it.
Another beginning then, to move on. There were times when sometimes all she needed was a shoulder, but all she got was a pillow. She began to find solace in art and in poetry. She was told she was good, but she doubted herself. ‘Self doubt doesn’t let you fly. Self criticism, on the other hand, is the thread of the kite which keeps it from flying away, lost from view, but also allows you to reach new heights,‘ her father would often say. She went about sharing her work, and marking her own improvements. She immersed herself into art and art responded to her whims. She kept on nagging herself, to improve, to build, to create. ‘Nagging yourself is necessary. It will lead to a flicker, then into a flame and then into an inferno,‘ her father’s voice echoed in her mind.
Yet, sometimes she would sit and wonder what she wanted from life. Was living on pills and counting her days out what she wanted? Was her aim only to survive? Or to make the max of whatever she had left? A dilemma of gargantuan proportions, and she never had the answer. That scared her, it scared her so much that it almost scarred her. This time, her mother came to her rescue.
‘Not knowing what you want from life is not the scariest thing, my child. The scariest thing is knowing what you want but not doing the required work to get that. The scariest thing is knowing what you want and can’t have it. The scariest thing is knowing what you want and having not lived for it.
You have a blank canvas. You don’t know what to paint on it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never know. For some, it clicks at 18, for some at 25, for some at 40. It doesn’t matter when you get to know what you want from life, but it is necessary to do your absolute best the moment you realize why you live.‘
So she delved in. Fully. Determined to make her time worth it, focused on beginning her final chapter in the best way she could. ‘Do something and people will look at you. Keep on doing things and they’ll look up to you. Tell them you can do the things as well and they’ll follow you,‘ her parents seemed to echo. She felt strength pouring in when she picked up the pen, her art and poetry touched hearts. She realised that the world needs introspection when all we do is investigation. She felt the power spinning at the tip of her pen, and the creativity hurling in her mind. She let it all out, sketch by sketch and prose by prose. She wanted to live beyond her lifespan, so she began to etch herself into minds and into hearts.
She felt as if she had the golden snitch in hand, and at the very end, life made sense.
"I open at the close."
She cut the cake, with the mother smiling at her, holding back tears. ‘You’re a strong woman,’ the daughter thought, with admiration. ‘There’s my strong girl,‘ the mother thought proudly.
She knew her father was looking on. Maybe, even awaiting her.
Who knows what new beginnings death has to offer?