When I think back to the first time I met you, I remember how your cheekbones stood high and prominent on your face, the light reflecting off them; like the sun kissing the peak of a mountain. My father has the same cheekbones and so do I. I think of the creases of age sprawled across your forehead and the permanent crinkling at the corners of your eyes, each wrinkle separated by a small valley. My eyes crinkle at the corners only when I smile, but I hope my life is filled with enough emotion to make those lines permanent like yours.
Each night of our visit, we would enter your bedroom and say goodnight to you. We would kneel to touch your feet, and you would give us a hug and kiss on the head. It was a fleeting ritual, but I hope it conveyed more love and respect than we could attempt to verbalize. You knew little English, and I knew little Nepali or Nepalbhasa. I had countless questions I wanted to ask about your life and my father’s but I felt timid, shy, and inadequate in the face of an impassable barrier separating us. What was it like to lose the mother of your children so young? What was it like to watch your first-born, your son, start a new life in a different country? It pains me to know that I will never have the chance to ask you those questions. I wish I knew that our first visit would be our last.
It’s difficult to describe the pain of loss in a manner that does not feel clichéd, especially since I was ashamed to grieve so deeply for a person I hardly knew. In processing your passing, I realized that although I had lost you, I could find a way to answer all of the questions I never had a chance to ask. I could choose to focus on what I took from that pain– a desire to learn more about my heritage. I realized that life is fleeting, and I cannot waste time forsaking any part of myself.
To this day, I still keep a small photo of you in my room. Dad took it. I was sitting with you, Emily, and Prakriti on your bed. Us granddaughters smiled into the camera while you looked deep into the lens, your face stoic and illuminated by the light that poured in from the window behind us–angelic. That is how I will remember you. And while I can’t ask you any questions, those photos remind me that I am made of the same blood, sweat, and tears. I am reminded that one day the crinkle at my eyes will become permanent like yours.
Edited by: Danielle C., Rachel C., Cathay L., Claudia S., Erika Y.