Nothing gold can stay

Things change after you lose someone close to you. For a while, the change is big and dramatic. You wake up every day and you feel the loss echoing through your chest. Your movements seem slower, your regrets cut deeper. But as time passes, life slowly begins to resemble normality again. First you find that you can get through the day with dry eyes. Slowly, you stop crumbling when people say ‘I’m sorry’. Eventually, you remember how to smile again. For some, this happens within days; for others, months – maybe years.

You think you’re doing okay because those big, dramatic changes have slowly drifted away. But then something subtle will bite you so hard, it leaves you breathless. It can be an old man with a beard like your father had or the old Dunhill catalogue you kept because it was the last piece of post addressed to him. It can be something more obvious like the birth of a nephew that will never know his amazing grandfather, or opening a closet in your old home and realising your mother still hasn’t packed away shirts and jackets three years after your father’s death. It can even be something bizarre like a blue alien daughter losing her blue alien father on a 3D screen in a darkened movie theatre. Those moments, those quiet, subtle, everyday moments, are when the loss cuts deepest, when you realise you didn’t say enough, didn’t do enough.

We all complain about our families, but we can also tell the difference between a ‘normal’ dysfunctional family and one that’s simply not worth knowing. Chances are, those of us in the former group don’t see our families as much as we should. Or, if we do, we don’t tell them we love them as often as we should.

I grew up in a conservative Asian family. I get that ‘I love yous’ don’t tally with tradition, decorum and etiquette. I get that love is unspoken and often takes second place to respect. I get that Asalaam Alaikum is more appropriate than a hug or a kiss. I even get that some people are better loved from afar.

But that understanding, however complete, fails to help in those breathless moments; moments where regret feels like a spider in your veins, crawling through the very fabric of your being. In those moments, you wish you had expressed your love, by words or by actions. In those moments, you wish you had spent more time, called more often, made an effort. That’s the funny thing about time. Yes, it lasts forever, but it leaves everyone behind.

Do I really need to tell you what you should do now?

16 thoughts on “Nothing gold can stay”

  1. They say time heals all wounds, some take longer because they aren't actually wounds inflicted by someone, just wounds inflicted by time itself. To be moved when someone loved and lost is remembered is what makes us human. To be moved when someone present is remembered is what keeps us human.

    Alas, so many of us realise what made us special when what made us special is lost… It is never too late to say sorry, thank you or I love you. I've always believed that 'Living each day as your last' doesn't mean doing a bungee jump or something nutty. It's making sure that no one is angry or sad with you when the day ends. No grudges left unresolved, no person taken for granted, for we all wish to be remembered the way we remember our loved ones lost.

    Excellent post Kia…

  2. I agree with Akif; you'll never be able to say or do "enough".

    I don't think we have to be explicit in expressing how we feel though. In fact there's an argument that being overt is a sign of shallowness – a bit like only being nice to your mum on Mothers' Day.

    I think that it's the simple, regular and non-special things which really show how you feel about someone. I guess that's why I'm not bothered when people call me a loser for choosing to remain living with my folks. Despite having the choice, I wouldn't have it any other way.

  3. > Akif
    Your comments about living each day like your last are lovely. I think it's easy to take others for granted, to think that they will always be there. Love shouldn't be an effort, but knowing that you said sorry, thank you, I love you to the right people at the right times is all we're really left with when they're gone.

  4. > Shak
    I don't see being more overt as being shallow at all. If you're talking about buying your girlfriend huge boquets of roses every Valentine's Day then, yes, I see where you're coming from, but doing the things I speak of – hugging your father once in a while instead of just salaaming him, telling your mother you love her, spending time with your family – aren't shallow at all. I agree that the small things matter; I remember how my father used to work so hard every day or have marks seared into his hand from carrying heavy bags of groceries for us and I really, truly appreciate those things, but I still wish we had shared more moments like the ones I describe.

  5. No display of affection is ever shallow, I make a big deal out of Mother's, Father's and Valentine's day and why not? If most mothers are given flowers on a specific day why should mine feel left out? So I don't seem 'shallow' to people? Who cares what people think? If it brings a huge smile to someone's face I love it's ALL worthwhile…

    Yes, you can buy someone a present any day but don't miss their birthday (or whichever day)!! These things matter to people regardless of being money spinning marketing ploys to someone else…

    At times it's important to be explicit in our display of affection as EVERYONE takes a loved one for granted at times and that extra show of 'Thank you' can melt many a heart…

    You can spend your life thinking whether people see you as shallow, or you can leave this Earth with people who knew you never held yourself back… I'd rather be dead than be the former…

    Don't wait till its too late.. Call Interflora now!

  6. I love your blog Kia and it is really nice to have another bengali chick say the words I think. (I loved your first book and am waiting for you new book to arrive).

    Luckily I have both my parents still but I live with my inlaws. I really try to see my parents as much as I can and I tell people the truth – I am scared they may die anytime anyday, not because they are aging but because that is the way life is – unpredictable and we never know what tomorrow holds. I have had experience death within the family so many times over the last few years.

    So there may never be a 'lets go and see them next week'. I don't visit them every week – as much as I would like to, but I do diarise time to stay over, sometimes take a day off work to chill with them or go for dinner after work (my work is closer to mum's then to where I live now which makes it easier but the trek home is a treak but worth it). I try to phone them everyday and still have the odd hassle when I am going back late, but I love the fact that they care. My inlaws work completely different -my husband and his brothers don't think like the way I do. I try and make an effort to go to my mum's for birthdays etc, even if it is to have dinner with them at home. Last year, my dad's birthday was during the week and I asked my other half whether he wants to meet me at mum's after work. His reply, which still hurts me today, was "Do we have to go every birthday??". Birthdays are only once a year for each person and it is no guarantee that there will be one the next year or even whether I will be around to go. My husband shouldn't even need an excuse to go!

    Before I got married – hugs and kisses were very rare, almost like a blue moon! Now, we greet each other with a hug when we see each other.

    Other half takes for granted so much that we live with his parents, even though they hardly talk to each other. I have to remind them to do something for their parents! These small lack of things will burden us later on. Most of us realise it too late. I try to stay in contact with my parents and try to bite my tongue sometimes, even then I know some things will haunt me when one of us leaves this world.

  7. Well, my point was that the scars on the hands of our fathers tends to mean more to us than any birthday gift they did or didn't give us, and it probably works the other way around too. In this sense I wasn't saying that hugging and saying you love someone are shallow, more that saying them as a novelty are. These things shouldn't be rarities.

    Of course the two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but you have to wonder how much an expression of love flowers once a year is to a mother, when the actions of the same child during the rest of it is making her sad, however unintentional that might be.

    The comments about not caring what other people think are especially ironic; in the most part that's what these things are about ("why should my mum miss out when everyone else is" etc). The reason why there's no "children's day" is because parents are much better at implicitly and effectively showing how much they care and so don't need a special day to prompt it. I don't see any reason why children can't do the same.

    But I guess you're both right, it depends on the person and what they'd be more receptive to. I guess the point is we should make an effort to know this, and whether it's flowers on Mothers' Day or something less explicit and more long term, then that's great; as long as it's about them rather than us it's all good.


  8. > DesiButterfly
    Hi, thanks for the comments. It's sad for any daughter to be away from her parents but, like you say, it makes the time you have with them more precious. I guess the challenge for those like your husband who do see their parents every day is to remember to spend some quality time with them. It's almost like when a married couple makes time for a date years after marriage and kids; it shouldn't be a 'novelty' (as Shak would say) but the mere fact that it is makes it more special somehow. You seem to be very sensitive to what I spoke about anyway (i.e. appreciating time with loved ones) so that makes you one step ahead.

    I thought it was interesting what you said about hugging becoming a more regular occurence after moving away from your family. It's the same with my family. We never used to when living together but now we do whenever we see each other. My nephews and nieces are growing up in a very different environment than I did; we hug and kiss them all the time and tell them we love them. This is going off on a tangent, but there was a Twix advert on TV years ago where a young man walks into a room and all his decrepit old aunties want a kiss and they're like "Roberrrrt" and he's cringing – we joke with my 16-year-old nephew that he's going to be like that one day soon, but he's never going to get away with not giving us a kiss.

    Right, I'm freaking myself out with all this talk of love and happiness and hugging. I'm off to kill a kitten.

  9. > Akif
    "At times it's important to be explicit in our display of affection as EVERYONE takes a loved one for granted at times and that extra show of 'Thank you' can melt many a heart…"

    I agree. It doesn't have to be through material objects but explicit displays of affection can make a difference to someone's day even when they know you love them because you're there for them and you pick up their socks and you tuck their hair behind their ear when it gets in their face and all those little things that make love what it is.

  10. > Shak
    "My point was that the scars on the hands of our fathers tends to mean more to us than any birthday gift they did or didn't give us"

    I think you're setting up a bit of a straw man in referring to birthday gifts because that's not what I was talking about at all. I was saying that we should make an effort to create and share more special moments with the people we love (i.e. those moments shouldn't be rarities).

  11. kia, you're too late mate, when you had the opportunity (and you had numerous ones), even just to show your face, you didn't, because in your cold hearted stubbornness you decided you wanted to punish rather than mediate or compromise like everyone else did, you felt too important and beyond it to have to be there, attending to meaning-less tasks instead.
    Did you ever stop to think about the ones who actually stayed behind and got on with it? In fact, they were the ultimate champions and you kia, your ego and pride have made you the biggest loser.
    Maybe now you can stop being so self involved and materialistic, and also realise/make effort with relationships and love which are not of the sexual variety, you will find there is more longevity in them.
    …I hope you've read this carefully before deleting.

  12. > freshfruit
    While I'm genuinely flattered you went to the effort of creating a Blogger account just to comment here, there really are easier ways to send me hate mail, this being one of them – just for future reference 😉

  13. Nice piece.

    I cried everyday for half a year when my dog died and I realized the tears weren't just for him. They were tears for my brother who died over a decade earlier.

    Like others have said, I think no matter what, you will feel as though you could have done more.

  14. Reading your post brought back so many memories…it was similar to your reference of subtle events leaving you breatheless. I too have lost many loved ones, and the pain never goes away. Sadly in my vast experience of loss, I've found that the only people who understand the meaning of loss are the ones who've experienced it too. They can understand how we go on because we have to, but not because we've forgotten, cos we can never forget. I still talk to my loved ones telling them how much I love them and know wherever they are they are listening…

    I hope people that have all their loved ones with them celebrate this blessing on a daily basis and not only on special occasions such as birthdays etc…

  15. For me, I think it is a lie this saying "time heals all wounds…". It is just to get you functional again on some way or the other. Yes, the wound of loosing a loved person won't affect everydays life anymore but there are these times… just hearing a melody… finding an old foto… and the pain comes back sharper than ever before. Because there is more and more growing in my life which i would wanted to share with these person.

    But being confronted to the death of loved persons more than one time, there is also another point which seems to play a role (this only contributes to me). To lose someone who was old and had a full life and loving family and friends and all what makes life full… it hurts but there is this desperate affection missing. To lose someone long before his time… it never ends to be "not right".


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