There were times over the last few years when I have carried my loss around like an old favorite coat. No matter how heavy it got, I didn't want to shed it. It fit, hugging me gently in all the right places. Someone sitting too close to me would be able to smell its foul odor—it was that pungent. Still, I refused to wash the coat. Why would I? The dust mites that burrowed into the fabric were perfect. They were at home in my old coat and so was I.
The colour was just the perfect shade of throw-out brown that no one would have guessed was once crisp and new, bright red plush. It wasn’t called sadness back then. It was called hope, and others complimented me on it. They envied it. The way it looked, the way it felt, the way it caught the attention of the world. That was a long time ago.
I cherished the old coat while dreaming of leaving it behind. I imagined throwing it off one day in a fit of rage in the middle of a summer storm, allowing droplets of rain to soak me from head to toe, washing me of the remnants of muck that coat left behind. But I can’t bring myself to leave it behind. It is a part of me. I wrap the coat tighter around me as I write this.
I grew up in a traditional religious Hindu family. Prayers at the break of dawn were the norm in our home. My grandfather, a former Hindu priest, had long since converted to Christianity after what the family described as a miracle. The story goes that my mother, born in the 1960s, was raised from the dead as an infant by a simple prayer. I never doubted the truth of their words growing up, or the fact that in her teens, my mother encountered visitations from Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of wisdom.
These stories wove their way into my being and taught me something vital: there was not one belief that was right. There were so many different beliefs but what was common was a need to do good, to be good, to love and to serve. Eventually, most of our family converted to Christianity. I attended church every Sunday in a congregation where my grandfather was an elder, but continued my Hindu prayers with my aunt and cousins in the week.
Throughout my teenage and young married life, I continued in the Christian faith. Family and friends still ask me: Why I don’t you follow a religion now? Why do I consider myself a free thinker or non-theist? The answer often does not point back to any one moment.
Some people fear my decision to not follow a religion. They fear what this means for my afterlife and for our son's upbringing. How do you expect to ever see your daughter again, since you have fallen from grace? They assume without religion, there is no hope or future.
The truth is this: I live every day of my life in my own personal hell without my daughter. I have suffered in a way that is inexplicable. I have since feared for the life of my living son on an hourly, not even daily basis. So no, I do not care if I see my daughter again in another lifetime. She is absent from this one, absent from my life each and every day. Zia is with me always. She lives in my heart, and her life runs through my veins. I do not need to be oppressed into a path I don’t believe will lead me anywhere.
This was never a fall from grace, but rather, a rising up to freedom. I would wear this coat regardless.
How has your loss impacted the way you view aspects such as religion and the afterlife? What are your thoughts on where your child is right now?