My mother died in her sleep. She was 54, a robust and happy soul the day before.
The whole family went into shock and fell into a deep depression.
And that's when the vultures came in.
The first to arrive for the funeral was my mother's sister.
“Our deepest condolences. I know it would hurt a lot, it was all so sudden and she's gone". She just stood there looking at us "Now I want you all to know that you need to be really strong - and you need to understand there's nothing anybody can do about it!”.
A neighbour walked in and asked "She seemed so full of life it's unbelievable but you never know, obviously she must have suffered a heart attack or something!". She wasn't done damaging "I'm so sorry but when was the last time she had a medical checkup?"
A friend of my Mom introduced himself to us and said "She wasn't a sinful person but she wasn't devout either, we all should pray for her salvation".
They kept on coming and believe me it didn't get better. I just sat there muting the world around me.
This was my moment of grief and this wasn't what I needed. I wanted to yell out at them but my 20 year old self was too numb and crestfallen to deal with their insensitivity and lack of compassion.
I saw my elder brother and sister remain tear-stained and silent throughout the ceremony.
I hated all the dumb quotes and cliches the well-wishers faked, none of it seemed to genuine.
The picture they painted about my mother was totally distorted from the real person she had been. She had never been a people pleaser but she always helped those in need and never liked being thanked for it.
Outwardly she displayed a real tough nut but we, her children, know all about the love and warmth filled deep inside of her.
After the burial my sister became hysterical and lashed out at the rude people. She wanted to clarify to all that Mum was a Saint and a hero. I know my relatives well, they can't fool me with feigned concern on their faces, they tried to console my sister, overtly displaying how caring they really are.
I looked around for my brother but he had fled and I followed suit.
As soon as I sneaked out through the backdoor I started running. I ran and ran all the way to the beach, to a secluded place I knew well.
Sitting down on the sand with shrubs all around, I hugged my knees, pressing my face into them I rocked myself. I felt terrible when it dawned on me that I could never run to Mum with my troubles - I burst into tears.
I still don't remember how long I stayed there, but when I woke up darkness had fallen, I had cried myself to sleep.
I 've never felt so lonely in my life.
I had left my phone at home and I was sure my brother and sister would be worried sick.
Still I didn't want to go back home. I just didn't feel like returning to a place where they failed to feel my feelings, especially during a time I need needed it most.
My tummy rumbled, I hadn't eaten all day but the bitter taste in my mouth and my aching heart made me lose all appetite.
With a huge sigh I got myself up and started trudging home, knowing perfectly well that the vultures would still be loitering in our living room.
When I reached the juncture to turn to my house lane, I found myself running away again.
I quickened my pace knowing well that the last ferry to the next town would be leaving soon. I was on my way to stay at my friend's place, who lived 3 hours away, she had been to the funeral.
I stayed with her loving family for a couple of weeks and they never talked about my grief and I was grateful for that.
They had been most kind but nothing seemed to help me. Even in the midst of laughter and fun I couldn't help feeling trapped and lonely.
Life suddenly felt like sitting at the bottom of a dark well.
I knew I was missing out on my University classes yet I refused to take any calls.
Eventually my sister came to take me home.
I refused to go with her and insisted she leave. My friend's parents even tried to talk some sense into me but I denied to listen to anybody.
Feeling drained my sister said "I really wish Mum was here, to talk to you, this is not what she would have wanted you to do!".
I started to retaliate "Yeah! Too bad she is not......
"Enough of this" my sister's words rang with anger. "I'm sorry about Mom passing away Ok! And so is everybody else!"
It silenced me and she continued "Do you think you are the only one who has lost Mum, tell me? Do you? Do you?"
I was looking down not knowing what to say. She walked over to me and took my hands and said "I know you are sad, angry and hurt".
And those words hit me hard. As I hugged her I burst into tears. "It's just so sad! So so sad!"
Still embracing she consoled me just like Mum saying "We are supposed to hurt, to be angry, disappointed and sad".
I cried in her arms for an eternity.
Hearing from someone how she felt and especially from someone whose loss is just as great as mine, somehow made me accept my reality.
I went home with my sister and together with my brother we started to live our life without Mum.
The funeral flowers had long been withered and whoever had cleaned the house left the condolence cards unopened.
I took it all to my Mum's room and I sat on her bed. Looking around the room her memories came flooding back.
It will never leave me and I don't want it to - ever.
I was still in mourning but I wasn't hurting as much, I looked at the cards and read them one by one.
It was really heartwarming to read some of the cards, they really described my mother for the beautiful soul she was, an affirmation of a life well spent.
Some of the cards shared their experiences of losing a loved one; a baby, a child, mother, father, daughter, son, grandparents, friends, and even pets.
I could easily relate with the recounts of the pain they had gone through.
Tales of losing faith and regaining it back.
That taking baby steps to recovery is the acceptance of the hard truth.
That instead of fighting back we need to allow the feelings of guilt, pain, anger and sadness pass through.
Some had found solace in talking to God and praying for them.
While others talked to their lost loved one.
I chose journaling, to help me recover as well as to understand myself better.
I wrote back to all who had sent me cards; sending notes, emails and flowers to those who had lost a loved one.
It had finally set me free.
It filled my heart with joy and somehow made me feel I wasn't alone.
And though she is physically not present in my life, my mother will always be here, in my heart.