Ten years ago, my grandfather died. The impact of his death was huge on me. It was the first time I experienced a personal death, aside from the miscarriages my mother had, this was someone who I had formed a bond with, someone who I knew, someone who I loved. He is my inspiration and my motivation, someone who I have always, and still do, look up to. When I was born, my grandfather was the one who named me, Parijat, providing me with guidance and purpose. I appreciate my name, I know that he took the time to really think of a name that I could live up to.
My first memory of my grandfather are through stories my parents and family have told me. Every afternoon I played with him, while my mother took her daily nap. He would play with me, feed, me, hold me, care for me. I grew up with him until the age of two, and the rest of my memories of him are through stories my family would tell me about him, international phone calls, and summer visits to India. My first visit, after moving to America at the age of two, was when I was 7 years old. All I remember was running straight to him in his room and giving him a hug. The smile that light up his face made it all the more amazing.
My cousins, Gaurang and Kartikeya, were a few years older than me and I would always try to fight with them, them being bigger and stronger meant that I was always more likely to lose, so my trump card was always my grandfather. I would run around and run to his bed and lay down right next to him. He would always yell at my cousins and tell them to leave me alone. I always got my way when it came to my grandfather. However, it’s not just the spoiling I received from him that I appreciated.
I would always sit with him and listen to him talk about his life, my father’s childhood, and parents life together; though when I was younger these small gems of wisdom was something I overlooked and did not appreciate. So many times, my Aunt would ask me if I understood what my grandfather was trying to tell me, and so many times I would nod yes so I would not have to listen to more words. Looking back, I wish that I had listened more. I remember one specific story he shared with me about my father, and I remember him telling me that the purpose of this story was to help me understand how the events in his childhood affected the man he has become today. I do not want to reveal the story, that is personal and between my grandfather and I, but the magnitude that conversation had on me (at the age of 12) still impacts me to this day. That’s the kind of man my grandfather was, he had a keen understanding of people and now matter their age, status, background, treated all equally. I was just a child and he entrusted me with such a vital piece into my father’s life.
In 8th grade, I had reached a very dark moment in my life, being the target of bullies was difficult, especially at the age of 11. There were many times when I did not want to go to school, I did not want to even live, but the one thing that got me through was my grandfather, the one thought that I kept repeating was “Dadaji would miss me, Dadaji loves me no matter what”. This is not to say my parents didn’t or that they were not good parents, in fact they were and always have been supportive parents, but the love of a grandparent, especially my grandfather, is completely unconditional, their only joy is spoiling their grandchildren, especially the first born girl in the family. My bond with my grandfather was very strong, he was the reason I kept going, kept waking up and going to school, kept picking myself up off the bathroom floor after crying.
When my grandfather died, I was visiting him in India. My parents had decided to send me immediately to spend time with him, and it was then I knew that my grandfather was sick, but a huge part of me still believed nothing would happen to him. The day he died, I had gone out with some friends, and had not seen him in the morning. To this day, I feel guilty. I remember opening his door, seeing my Uncle sitting next to my grandfather, helping him to cough. The sound of his coughing terrified me and my immediate thought was “Oh God, he sounds like he is dying” and I could not bare to hear the sound of his cough and left without saying “hello!” or “I love you”. When I came back, the shock of his death paralyzed me. This had to be some sick dream, he couldn’t be gone. It wasn’t right. Seeing my grandmother’s hair undone, the tears in her eyes, and him laying there, the life in him gone…was too much for the 16 year old in me to handle. I was broken.
Days passed, weeks passed and I was still broken, eating was hard, sleeping was hard, doing anything was hard. I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t want to breathe, every waking moment I was crying. Why was he gone? Why had God taken him away from me? He was…IS my grandfather, my inspiration, my soul mate. I couldn’t understand why and I didn’t feel like anything was going to get better. I remember standing outside on the balcony, looking out at the trees and the blue sky asking God “Just tell me it will be okay, tell me he is with me” and then, the sweetest moment happen, a butterfly flew past me, gently fluttering its wings, as if no worries weighed it down. Weightless and free, and in that moment I knew it would be okay and I knew he was always there with me. To be clear, the next year wasn’t easy for me.
His death triggered many memories for me as well as many fears, death is still something I struggle with accepting or even thinking of. Though as each day passed, the pain started to fade, and each day I woke up able to breathe, to smile, to remember him for all that he was and make him proud. I remember him every day but the pain is gone now, just the good memories and the inspiration. Yes, there are days that I cry and miss him, holding my teddy bear, wishing he was here to ask advice for. To share with him all that I have accomplished, but I know he knows what I have achieved. Wherever he is in this world, whatever new life he has taken on, he’s still watching me and caring for me.
I miss you so much, I wish I could tell you what I have achieved, what I have done, the fact that I work in non-profit, the fact that I am following my dreams, but I can’t actually tell you. I know that you can see what I have done but sometimes I just want you to be here, to smile at me, to hug me, to give me advice.
Thank you for being in my life and having an impact, to be your granddaughter is an honor, I hope that I can fill up your shoes. I know I will make my own path and you will always be in my heat. Just miss you every now and then. I love you, from the bottom of my heart to the very very very top, and then it spills over some.
May your soul rest in peace, wherever God has decided to take you. I can’t say this enough, I love you.