My grandfather, lovingly called Papaji by everyone from his grandchildren to his younger brother, passed away last week.
We were close and the news of his passing broke me. I did fly down to pay my last respects, attended his cremation and spent time with my grandmother, but nothing has been able to remove that big black hole he’s left. However much I may try, smiles refuse to linger, brain suddenly breaks for jaywalks into past and tears start bubbling up.
His passing was sudden – he hadn’t been ill or weak, other than the frailness that comes with age. And more than anything, it is that suddenness that hurt the most. I didn’t get to say good bye, to hug him one last time, to share a few old thoughts, to thank him, to be scolded by him one last time… to do those small things that help provide closure on a long and treasured relationship.
However, in that suddenness of passing, is also a sense of satisfaction. He passed away peacefully in his sleep having spent his last morning just the way he liked – chatting to ma, flirting with grand ma, soaking in the sun and reminding dad of sundry chores. It was during his afternoon siesta that he chose to leave us, with a smile on his face. I wonder what was he dreaming that brought that smile on. At least, it is clear that he didn’t suffer any pain in his passing. At his age, in late 80s, this was a blessing.
He had lived a long life and varied life – born as the eldest son to an extremely rich landlord in what is now Punjab in Pakistan, lost a little family and all his possessions during partitions, spent 30 years working in the UK away from his wife, mother and kids, and then came back to spend his last decades as the patriarch of a large and loving family. To pass away peacefully at the end of it is just the way he would have liked it.
Yet it hurts. And not just me. My sister, my younger cousin siblings, dad’s younger sister and grand dad’s younger brother – all people who had been really attached to him, all people who were far away when he passed away, all people who didn’t get to say their good byes, all people who quietly sob in a corner whenever left alone.
We all miss you Papaji. We all inherited your strong head, now is the time we need your strong heart as well.