Come the end of December,its customary to take stock of the year gone by and make resolutions for the year ahead. What have been the achievements, how many targets have been met, has one got to where you wanted to be – these are usual issues that get evaluated. And then there are the resolutions for the year ahead – course corrections, fresh targets and the like!!
But, as time goes by and you are near the end of your 7th decade, as I am, perceptions definitely change. The predominant feeling this year has been of loss, two dear friends and two close family, two prematurely and two at the end of well lived lives.
My mother-in-law lived her 100 years (she turned 100 in June this year) as a fiercely independent, woman who suffered many set backs in her life, but overcame them with determination and spirit. She was the source of strength to all around her. Fortunately, she did not linger through a long illness, which she would have hated.She died in late September leaving behind a vacuum. But then we had enjoyed many bonus years with her and could not regret her death, only celebrate her life.
Prof as we referred to him (Prof Roy Chaudhury) was a few days short of his 85th birthday, and the most active and socially engaging person I knew. He worked full days, engaged in a variety of interests, and contributed hugely to various health related policy forums and Institutions. But most of all, he loved people and never forgot the people he met through his various academic and social involvements. He was en route to Chennai in late October, to deliver a public lecture on one of favorite subjects, when he suddenly collapsed and passed away a few hours later. To me, as for so many others, he managed to be a dear friend and a wonderful mentor at the same time. I miss him, for his warm personality, and his infectiously engaging optimism.
Ammini and I went back to the early days in medical college, when we were room mates. We were two distinctly different people who became close through the ups and lows of hostel life, lived far from our families. Over the following five decades, we lived in different cities and met off and on when our academic activities took us to the other’s city. We did not share the usual high points in our lives (marriage, children etc) and in the pre-internet era of our younger years, there was no time for slow mails to be exchanged. But, even after years, there was always an instant connect when ever we met. She was a couple of years my junior, but then cancer does not respect age and it took her away in April, the second one falling to the disease from among our college group. A wonderful clinician and an and honest, ethical human being – I miss her and regret not having spent more time with her over the years.
And finally Gopal, my brother, just 63 years old – with whom memories were mainly of our very early childhood, while circumstances had kept us separated us for many decades, who in the last few years with increasing ease in communications and travel had become so much closer, who although younger was an anchor in my life after my own personal loss of spouse! He was warm, funny, loving and nearing the end of a successful career – he was planning more frequent trips to India to see the many parts he had not (his great regret that he had never seen the Himalayas!) seen once he retired. None of it was to be – FTD (fronto-temporal dementia) visited him at 59 and in five years, he was just an empty, hollow physical form of himself. And when he finally left us in June, emotions were confused – was it OK to be relieved? How does one erase those last 5 years, and mourn the Gopal we knew? But those 5 years were also a part of his life – how to side step that pointless question, Why him? I have still not sorted it all out in my head – but I do feel some comfort from the fact that I was able to spend considerable time with him through the slowly downhill course of the illness. And because of his untiring efforts to keep his Indian family and his Dutch family connected, I feel happy that though distance separated us, we are there for each other.
But of course, there were wonderful things too that happened in the year. My mother had a relatively healthy year and turned 85 in November. I had good holidays (Kutch in February, Midlands in UK in July) with friends, enjoyed time with family and read a lot of good books. I do not make resolutions any more or set targets (except for reading) – but will try to stay busy and will have faith that good health will continue to stay with me.
And of course, 2016 will bring its share of joys and highlights – a new grand-nephew to arrive soon, welcoming a new son-in-law, grand Golden Wedding Anniversary plans for the loveliest couple I know, some upcoming travels………..
I do plan to go back to more academic reading than I have been doing in the last couple of years and try and write more. My reading targets for this year are more modest and my blogs will be more general in nature with books thrown in only when something I am reading is really interesting!!
So here is wishing all those who follow my blog, a great 2016.