It was the summer before I started secondary school. I had just turned eleven. My family went on holiday to our homeland, India. In search of enlightenment. This was only the second time I had been there but already I felt I belonged there, as though a strong hypnotic spell was constantly drawing me towards it. I had missed my family dearly and although I couldn’t wait to see them that wasn’t the most important reason I loved India, nor was it the wondrous sights, but the lush green fields and the golden sandy beaches that glistened in the glorious sunshine.
I remember lying there lazily, having nothing to do. There I would be as free as a bird. The reason we flew back was due to the upcoming wedding of my cousin. I remember having to stay with my Great Uncle’s family. Everyone was busy preparing for the wedding, they were so wrapped up in what they were doing it was like they had sometimes forgotten about me. Still the atmosphere was great, and it was one of the best moments of my life. Everyone was pulling together and it felt like there was a strong bond between the whole family. I will always remember one particular day for all the wrong reasons.
It was the evening, my family had all gathered round to hear the wonderful stories my Grandfather would always tell us about his childhood. I especially loved these moments, as it was when I felt the most warmth, love and togetherness. On this night though my Grandfather was not with us as he was seriously ill and had stayed at his home. My Grandmother had forced everyone to leave him alone with her and to try and ignore it. Instead my Great Uncle took his place as the storyteller. I remember how my mind was wondering and how restless I became, wishing I sat beside my Grandfather and had been there for him, like he was always for me.
A sudden drowsiness came over me. The moment I finally fell asleep on my mother’s lap, an abrupt scream from my auntie awoke me. A strange curiosity filled the room. I looked up to my father and saw him with his face pointed towards the ground. I didn’t understand what was going on. I looked around the room bewildered, as a strange unsettled feeling filled the house. I asked my mother in a soft voice what had happened, afraid that I would break the silence. She didn’t answer. What’s happened? Why is everyone so still? Did I do something? I thought to myself.
After a while I realised nearly everyone was crying. Sadness was everywhere. I can still see a vivid image of my uncle’s rage. Still not knowing what had happened I looked up to my mother and asked her once again what had happened. A tear rolled down her cheek. Then she hugged me so tight I could hardly breathe. Then, taking a deep breath she answered cautiously and nervously, “It’s your granddad… ” before she finished I had realised what had happened. I ran out of the house in a fog of disbelief. I remember running to my favourite place, the beach, trying to clear the voice of my mother from my mind.
I then imagined that she told me everything was fine, I nearly began to believe a lie; a lie that I pleaded would be true. My arms became all weak and heavy as I began to tense. I sat for what felt like hours listening to the waves crashing against the rocks. I picked up a shell and desperately listened to the ghostly echo of the waves in an attempt to forget the truth. I know they’ve made a mistake. He’s probably at home fast asleep. He can’t be dead. He’s too young to die. Millions of thoughts kept rushing into my mind. I couldn’t stop them. I looked up at the sky, it was unseasonably dull.
Grey clouds seemed to cover the sky for miles, but from the corner of my eye I glimpsed a solitary ray of light. A smile appeared on my face as I imagined it was my Grandfather making his way to heaven. I saw him as the ray of light because he was different to everyone else and he would always stand out in a crowd. I felt the presence of my Grandfather around me, it had finally sunk in. He was dead. I stood up as I felt the fog before my eyes clear, and began to walk back to seek comfort from my family. This As I arrived, back at the house, I remember seeing several children playing.
I stood there for a while as I wished I had their lives, not having to worry about anything and doing what ever I wanted whenever I wanted. From behind there emerged the solemn face of my mother. I ran to her, I could tell she was holding back the tears. I fell into her arms and once more she hugged me tightly, as though she was saying she would always look after me and never let go. Everyone was getting in to their cars to get to my Grandmother. I remember sitting in the back of a white van with my mother it was pitch black. I remember as I tried to forget everything that was happening.
Only the soft sounds of people mourning could be heard as I lay in my mother’s arms helplessly. One of my closest relatives had died and I could do nothing about it. I peered through the windows and saw the darkness, which had already filled my heart. I began to think about all the fun times we had had together, to try and ease the pain. The time when I first went to India with him. All the times he took me to the park and for long walks when I was younger back in England. It almost made everything worse. I could hear my mum crying and chanting what I assumed was a prayer.
The van came to a sudden halt, we had arrived at my Grandparent’s house. It seemed as though we had been in the van for hours rather than barely twenty minutes. My heart began to ache as I looked above to see a faint shadow of what seemed like my Grandmother sat next to my granddad’s body. My mother held me as we walked up the long winding stairs which I wished led to heaven and my Grandfather, but instead all that was left was his body. As my mum took me towards my Grandfather I remember trying to look away, I didn’t want to see him like that, so still and lifeless.
Tears began to well up within my eyes. I let go of my mother, part of me wanted to run out but the other wanted to see him for the last time and say goodbye properly. I approached him, scared to look, as I got closer I saw my Grandmother. I will always remember her face as she held his pale right hand, it was as though she wasn’t ready to lose him and would have done anything for a couple of minutes with him. I leapt into her arms without a second thought as we both began to cry. As I desperately held onto her I could feel a part of her leaving, it was as if without him she was incomplete.
I held his hand, instantly I felt this strong connection, although he was dead as I held him I couldn’t let go, even though he was as cold as ice. That night my family stayed with my Grandmother. I was forced to go back with my Great Uncle. Everyone was silent when we got there and emptiness seemed to fill the house. I remember how isolated I felt. My family were far away from me. I had no one to talk to. My relationship wasn’t very good with my Great Uncle’s family so I wasn’t aware of how they felt or how they would react. I lay there all night trying to fall asleep but I kept on remembering everything that happened over and over again.
Wishing I could have been there, sitting next to him, to help him through all the pain and agony. As I was so close to my Granddad, it was as though a part of me had died with him. All my hopes and dreams seemed to have been snatched away from me by the grim and menacing figure, Death. After a couple of days we made our way to northern India near the source of the Ganges, our holy river. My Grandfather had always wanted to die in India and be cremated in the same place as his father, his dream had come true. It was as though God intended for him to die happily, in a place where he was loved and a place he loved.
Before the funeral I bathed in the holy water to purify my soul from all the sins in my life. As I did so I prayed my Granddad was all right. Soon after the ceremony started. It was probably the most painful thing that I will ever have to face in life. Watching someone I loved and still do love disappear, without anyone being able to do anything. Lots of people had come from all over India and even from Kenya where he grew up, and from England to pay their respects to a great man. The look on my Grandfather’s face will always stay with me, his strong husky voice always clear in my mind. I feel empty and isolated sometimes without him.
A candle was lit in his honour. I remember releasing it down the Ganges, it felt like I was losing him all over again. Still it was the prefect way to say good-bye to a man which I deeply loved and admired. The water was so pure and as the candle flowed down it the glittering light lit up the river and my heart. As I watched the flames dance from side to side I felt a sense of satisfaction. It made me think about his life, all the brave things he had done, all the hard work he did to try and give his family the best future he could. He was a man who had dignity and integrity, and I am proud to be called his Grandson.
One thing will always stand out at his funeral. It felt and looked as though all his old friends, that I didn’t know, didn’t care he had passed away. All the emotions they had shown were worth nothing to them. They didn’t care that someone had lost a Husband, a Dad, a Granddad or even a role model. It seemed like they could control their emotions. Turning them on and off at any given time. This was one of the many lessons I have learnt, that some people are heartless. I had never seen people who could be so cold. I sometimes wish my Grandfather was still alive. I wish I had been taken instead of him.
Although that didn’t happen I often wonder what he would tell me to do in certain situations. Sometimes I feel he is still alive and lives within me. My parents still talk to me about him and tell me things about his childhood. I still feel very proud to have been related to him and I also feel a great amount of gratitude towards him, as without him I wouldn’t have any of the things I have today. I think a lot about him and often wonder if he’s looking down at me from above. I will always try to carry on what he started his selfless personality and determination to capture excellence is what I have based my life on today.