February 8 - Maya's birthday (2000)
February 14 - Valentine's Day and the day we decided to have children (1999)
February 24 - The day I arrived in Seoul (2005)
February 25 - The day I started my blog (2005) and the day my sister miscarried her first baby (2003)
All month long, the loss of my nephew has been on my mind. I don't know why...every year, I think about him, but this year, I've thought about him almost everyday in February. Akhil would have been about 6 months older than Nadia. My sister was 32 weeks pregnant when, for no apparent reason, she miscarried. He died in utero and she had to be induced to deliver him.
It was horrific.
My mom wasn't in the US at the time, she had just left to visit India and tour Singapore with family. She was out of reach at the time of the miscarriage. She got back to India from her tour and got a call from my dad. It was just awful...she couldn't get a flight back until almost a week after the miscarriage.
I was in LA and got to Seattle the morning after she delivered. I too couldn't get a flight out immediately. And I agonized over leaving Maya with Chris and my inlaws (who were living with us at the time)...taking her wouldn't have been good for her and wouldn't have let me focus on Preeti. But it would have been the first time I'd ever been apart from her overnight. But because my inlaws were living with us, I decided to leave her. Maya had just turned three a few weeks earlier. Also, I had just found out that I was pregnant with Nadia and in the midst of morning sickness. Preeti and I were excited that our babies were going to be close in ages. Just about three weeks before she miscarried, Maya and I flew up to Seattle for her baby shower. And just the weekend before, they had painted a hand-me-down crib.
His loss made me question my faith in God. I've always believed in the existence of God. I don't know what kind or if it is male or female or even just a spirit, but I've always believed that something is out there. That faith in a benevolent being looking out for me has gotten me through some tough times in my life. I don't expect anyone to believe what I do, but I do expect respect. That's all I have ever asked for. And nothing has ever shaken my faith like the death of Akhil.
My BIL's family was having a ceremony at their house a few days after the miscarriage. It was a type of Puja, or offering to gods through a sacred fire. This fire, once lit, should not be allowed to go out until the very end of the ceremony. I think, according to my BIL's family (who have different customs than our family does) it is a bad omen if it does. I sat there, watching, in my own grief and anger at what had happened to my baby sister. My sister is one of the gentlest people you will ever meet. Always laughing and smiling. And THIS happened to her?! What kind of God allows that? Anger was building inside of me, anger at God. Who else could I be angry at? I sat through the Puja, staring into the fire. Tears were flowing, but the more I cried the angrier I got.
Then, I had this thought. That there was no God. It shook me...I'd never ever doubted that there is something bigger than us until that moment. Then I thought, maybe I shouldn't believe in something that would allow this to happen to someone like my sister. All of a sudden, I thought to myself that I needed a sign. I looked at the fire and thought, "If there IS a God, then I need a sign. If there is a God, then the fire will go out."
I swear to you what happened next, I did not make up.
The fire, the one that should not go out, went out. The windows in the front of the room were closed and only the ones in the back of the house were open at the time, but when the fire went out, the smoke blew right into my face, as if the wind came from the front of the room. I closed my eyes tightly as the smoke blew into my face, tears streaming down in utter shock. Everyone around me scrambled to quickly restart the flames, whispers of bad omens coming from the elders in the room. My sister and BIL sat there in their grief, probably thinking about why all this was happening. But I just sat there.
Five minutes later, my mom called from India. I rushed to the phone, ran into the bedroom and in between my sobs told her everything. I remember that she was happy to hear that this had happened to me, that maybe my faith would be intact after all. My sister came into the room to see me frantic and sat on the bed listening. She was calm even though the tears were streaming down her face too. Here she was, the one who had just miscarried and she was calm while I was a freaking mess. When my BIL found out what happened, he asked why I had asked for the fire to go out. My thought to ask for that kind of sign was a sudden thing, not planned, which he understood. Also, I think, he was relieved to hear that there was a good reason behind it.
The next few days and weeks found all of us searching for answers. Along the lines of our belief in reincarnation and karma, the one explanation that gave us some comfort was that Akhil's soul only needed a relatively short amount of time on this earth to fulfilled his karmic debt before being released to God. And my sister and BIL needed to suffer that amount of pain to pay for sins in their past lives. As we all did, in various levels, and continue to do so.
No one knows why this happened. Medically speaking, no reason was ever found for the miscarriage. Just one of those freak accidents. And we don't know if the reincarnation/karma explanation is true or what. But, just like faith for a lot of people, myself included, that explanation gave me some bit of comfort. Thinking that maybe my sister carried a soul on its final journey, in a way, it was a gift to her. A torturous gift, but nonetheless, she held the vehicle of a cleansed and pure soul in her arms that day three years ago.
Preeti, I love you so much. I miss you everyday and wish I could be there with you, especially at this time. I miss Akhil, too. I wish I could be there to see Akash and Anjali a lot - they are the blessings that came from all this. I treasure them like my own children, as you do with Maya and Nadia.
All my love, sweetie.