Dubai Diaries: When grief takes over

My uncle lived an ordinary life but a great one, a realisation that made me smile even through my pain.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Enid Grace Parker

Published: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 10:21 AM

Last Saturday I received a text in the middle of the night, bringing me news of a tragedy. While the brief message was not completely unexpected, it still put me in a state of shock.

I’d felt these emotions before — the initial sense of disbelief crumbling, an overwhelming sadness taking over. The kind that seems to seep into your soul, making the whole business of life that continues around you seem irrelevant, astounding, offensive even.

I decided I couldn’t be a part of my ‘normal’ day with this unbearably heavy weight on my heart. I needed some time out.

A hearse in another part of the world made its way slowly to the final resting place of generations — a place where fresh stone markers stood side by side with chipped statues of angels — who seemed to say - ‘don’t forget me, even though I’ve been gone for ages’.

When a loved one dies, grief captures us in phases.

There are the sudden sharp stabs of pain as objects used by the departed loom large, magnifying our sadness. Can we bear to pick up that pair of spectacles from a bedside table and put it away? When will we get rid of those bottles of pills, which will never be needed again? We can clear out rooms, but not our hearts. We can leave the coffins behind, but how do we bury our memories?

My uncle — my father’s younger brother — was the kind of person I’d always thought was invincible. I had grown up listening to stories about his boarding school days in India and looking at fascinating black and white photos of a band of brothers who excelled at sports, under the watchful eye of my grandfather, a former army man, who spent his retirement years as a football and hockey coach.

My uncle turned out to be a champion boxer and competed at many prestigious tournaments. He was ridiculously handsome, almost like a movie star. Girls fawned over him, guys wanted to be his friends.

He lived a full life as a youngster — a star on the social scene and a champion on the field and in the ring. Over a period of time he settled down and raised a family.

He was an honest man who liked the simple pleasures of life like a great game of pool (he was a champ in this field too), a long walk, or even cooking up — quietly and without fuss — a delicious meal in the kitchen. He loved joking around and would often come up with subtle digs that left us in splits.

My uncle lived an ordinary life but a great one, a realisation that made me smile even through my pain.

The journey of grief never really ends; we resist loss and then embrace it, because we have no alternative. We keep good memories close and they shine on us on dark days. Someday perhaps things will be ‘normal’ again. But not yet.

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