Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel.
Once, there were poetry-like lyrics of a song sung by Sting. In my teens, singing the song in school to the soft touches of the piano, I had been captivated by the image of the wheel within a wheel. The thought of something never ending or beginning, especially outside the realms of scientific discussions of infinity, made me delightfully uneasy. At fourteen, when we believe that life itself can be contained in and controlled by the mind, the boundless ideas contained in a song titled ‘Windmills of your mind’ were impossibly heady. Life itself seemed never ending or beginning.
I like to think that karma was not laughing at me then. I do not believe in karma, so it is easy to think that way. Except when I, well, in moments of terrible uncertainty … um … when I am trying to make sense and failing miserably, but I do want to keep trying, you know … those moments when life itself feels like a chain of cause and effects … and I know that I must have done something wrong, somewhere, to someone, in some life …
The wheels keep turning, my friend, and there is only the beginning, and the end. Life is but a series of karma between these two. Except when the end follows on the heels of the beginning, like for Raahi, or even precedes the beginning, like so many babies I know, the wheel, and the wheel within it, screech so hard that it can be heard over the world’s loudest religious drumrolls.
It makes no sense, my friend, it makes no fucking sense. Karma, who? Whose karma? What karma? Where karma?
But the drums roll on, the beaters don’t care if you’re not listening. They think you’re unwilling, you know they’re tone-deaf.
Within the limited social circles of our first-generation immigrant life, my husband and I have been gently caressed for five years by the loving reminder that our baby is in a better place (to which my husband had once retorted, “And what better place is that? A hole in the ground?”). From afar, and recently, on my trip to India, in person, my Hindu family, friends, neighbors, well-wishers from every sphere of my past, have been swearing on the karmic cycle, the soul, the wheel. Many of them have referred to Raahi as a “liberated soul,” one who has attained moksha or nirvana.
There is detailed explanation for how an infant who dies young may be a baby who we feel responsible for and long to take care of, but actually s/he is a wise and evolved soul, whose only purpose to have been conceived or born, was to fulfill one last duty, or to go through one last experience before it would be liberated out of the wheels of life, death, and reincarnation. Some say Raahi had a debt, some swear it was my debt to her that she had come to exact. They all seem to know these things, and I, with my PhD, my hours and hours of sleepless thoughts, feel like an anchorless sailboat in a sea of ignorance (that is poetic, and deep, right? But it’s entirely my own thought, not collective knowledge. Hence, useless).
When they leave me alone, I wonder if they can think of Raahi as a soul, a spirit, only because no one (except my mother) had seen her in person. They had not smelled her breath, had not heard her coo, had not felt her warm and soft skin against their cheeks. I wonder if they would have ached more if part of her still lingered on in their senses. If all their knowledge, their wisdom, their belief, would fall short, feel vacuous, if they had only met her once. If nothing would make sense anymore, and it would be okay to say so, if they had held my alert baby at night and woken up an hour later to find her dead.
I never say anything to them. If someone is humanely sensitive (apart from being extra-terrestrially wise and evolved), they may notice and mention that their faith may all be too unreal for me still. I smile and say that I am not there yet.
I am grateful. It should be enough. The compassion, a heavy sigh, wordlessness. But few people stop at that. Condescension, that confidence that they know more about the meaning of my loss than me, is too tempting.
In many ways my ears and my mind have developed invisible filters in these years since losing an infant, our baby, my little girl. I take what I need, and disregard the rest. I am quite the subversion of my favorite band’s famous lines: “All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” I am too entrapped within the abysmal void left in place of Raahi’s physical and sensory presence in our everyday lives to find any meaning, let alone positivity, in her loss. I do not care if I will meet her again when I die. I do not care if she was a sacred soul who evaded life’s suffering and pain and attained enlightenment through death.
I just do not care for anything except what I know for a fact. That she should be here, and she is not.
When I kiss her older brother, when I feel the snow on my face, when I see the Niagara Falls, when I hear a symphony, or when a juicy watermelon erupts in my mouth on a hot summer afternoon, I cannot believe that life is all suffering and pain, and that human birth is a punishment. I only know that my little girl did not get to experience any of this.
I get why people need faith, why they need to believe in a greater being, a peaceful and eternally happy place where all souls go. I do not doubt, I never assert that it is all “lies and jest.” I just don’t know. And I need to be left alone to sit in my ignorance.
The wheels roll on, within themselves, in circles, in spirals, their eternal motion symbolically containing human experiences as it once spearheaded human civilization. In esoteric wisdom, in unconditional devotion, in circular and cyclical motion, life’s and death’s meanings are sowed, sought, and shared.
For me, my daughter, and my love and grief for her flutter securely within the windmills of my mind. They churn on and on, turning mind into matter, and matter into mindlessness. Thoughts of her, longing for her, knowing she’s not here — these turn themselves into random shapes and forms. Every day. E-v-e-r-y day. They remain raw, brimming, bursting, bristling.
Unevolved, immature, meaningless, they are my animal senses, my human breaths. And my maternal instincts.
What tenets of wisdom has the world offered you to explain or make sense of your loss? Has your relationship with faith changed after losing your baby(ies), and if so, how? How do you feel these days about spiritual or religious thoughts regarding the loss of an infant?