3 years without you have been like 3 epochs, of pain and emptiness. I miss you every day.
My Dear Rubba,
It would be 3 years, this month, since you left for the final journey. The sun still shines, clouds envelop the sky, the moon moves, people continue with their routine, but my world has turned upside down.
You departed from our lives; this had never been the promise, and parting was never destined to be this soon. Now mornings are dark, and evenings all gloom. Days have been hurtful and every night I battle with life, without you.
Each year, something new brings this grief to the surface. In 2019 it was moving to a new city, without you. In 2020, it was getting a new car, without you. In 2021, it was getting married, without you (that was particularly hard). This year, 2022 – I’m thinking about having children, without you. I’m scared. What if my children don’t have the relationship we had? The thought terrifies me, even more so after I learned that a lot of sibling relationships are fractious. It felt normal that ours was unconditional, fun and loving. The all-consuming sorrow that dominated my days in the first year no longer rules my life. It comes situationally—on anniversaries, during transitions, in unexpected moments. It’s always there below the surface, but God has healed me to the point that I have a functional life, a life in which my focal mission is not just making it through the day and surviving the immense grief of not having you around.
Two years after you passed away, I met a girl named Neha, who had heard that I had lost my brother. She introduced herself and told me that she had a brother who died a year ago.
As she told me the story of her brother’s sudden death while standing on the banks of river Jehlum, she started to cry. Neha explained, “I’m so grateful for these tears. You see, God will prevent this small part of your heart from ever healing. When those moments come when you re-encounter the pain and you cry as I am doing now, you are so blessed to see how much you still love your child. That unhealed part of your wound is a gift from God.”
Neha is right. The enduring wound that latently resides in one’s heart and emerges from time to time is a blessing.
Not even a day has passed since that you haven’t been in our thoughts. From holy months to Eid days, nothing except hope has calmed us down, in your absence. When the alarm bell rings from Sehri to Subhai Eid, I do wake up and with you in my mind I routinely pay a visit to your room, where we used to hug each other, laugh and talk, where we still smell the fragrance of the papers and books you possessed. But each time reality hits me hard. It has all been different, it has been melancholic. Days and nights, 3 years without you have been gruesome, terrible, spending nights alone and crying in the darkest corners of room have been the most horrible experience. It all feels lifeless, because we lost you. We had never imagined this life to be so hard, post your exit. Since you left, every day has been an Ashoora. Your leaving was the beginning of a long trial, and it came with things that made us the strongest of souls. Alone, thousands and thousands of thoughts have tangled my soul, since. “Why you left us”, “Should we be happy or sad”, “celebrate or mourn”? There has been not a single day when Ma would not have put dinner for you in your plate.
Since you left, I have buried many relatives and friends of yours. Burying Shakir and dada ji (our grandfather) was hard and the toughest one.
I do think about you every day, and as redundant as it sounds, it’s true. There are so many questions that I have for you. I have so many memories of us, and each day I wish I could relive them all over again. I often wonder if you knew how much you meant to me, and I always hope that I’m making you proud. There are a lot of things that we won’t get to experience together, and it still breaks my heart. I wish you were here to see me as a groom and then joining a new organisation and I desperately wish that you could see me walk across that stage and see my book to be published soon. You were one of the reasons that I worked so hard in school, and you will continue to push me to do the best that I can.
I hope you know that I will always miss you and I will always love you. Three years of hoping that the strength you carried through your life can somehow be reflected onto me. Three years of wondering why this hurts so bad still. Three years of wondering if I’m the only elder brother that got left with so much pain when I lost my brother.
There was nothing more comforting than knowing I had my brother to protect me. You were like my life insurance because I knew that no matter what, nobody could harm me without going through the wrath of you. It was engraved in me since birth that if anyone hurt me, they would have to answer to you. 100 wasn’t even the number I dialled if something went wrong; you were always my first go-to. If the bike was making some funny noise, I immediately called you. If cops pulled me over, I immediately called you. If I passed my permit test, texted you in all caps. When I got into management college, I excitedly texted you.
I’m writing this letter because I just wanted to thank you for everything. Thank you for teaching me every wrestling move you knew when WWE was your holy grail. Thanks for teaching me how to drive the car and bike. Thanks for making it known in our village that nobody was goanna mess with me, or else…. Thanks for letting me tag along and try to keep up with you and your friends. You taught me to put my whole heart into everything I do in life. You taught me to never let fear come between me and my passions. You taught me what rotors and brake pads were (still a little fuzzy in my head). You taught me family over everything.
Most importantly, thank you for becoming my best friend when we got older. Thank you for dealing with my attitude and difficult personality.
The fact is you were too strong to be here, so God took you instead. I try to stay strong like you taught me. I try to hold back the tears when I see a picture or video of you. The hardest part of losing you was when life started to move forward. Having to realise that even I had to move forward and had to learn how to live without calling, texting, talking, or joking with you. Having to realise that you won’t be at my wedding or meet the girl I marry.
Understanding that my future children won’t grow up knowing you but rather knowing the memory of you. Having to realise my future kids won’t have you as the fun, goofy uncle. That you’re not a text or call away anymore. That we won’t be old together. That I have to face adult life all by myself. I miss you more than words can explain.
I try to tell myself that God must have had a very special job that he really, really needed you for. I know you’re watching over mom, dad, and me. I wish you could have stayed here with us. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you how much I loved you when you were here. I love you my angel, my brother.
—The writer is a Kashmir-based student activist, storyteller and columnist. [email protected]