I woke up this morning with a bad migraine. The wall clock announced the time as 6 am. Looking at the toddler sleeping beside me, I felt guilty. Yesterday had been an extremely depressing day for me. The editing part of the first novel has been pending for quite a while. The boy had been falling sick quite frequently for the past one month. Last week he had come down with viral flu and had to be confined inside the house for the whole week. Yesterday he wanted to go to the nearby play zone quite badly. Fear of an infection again made me discard the idea. When every mode of trying to make him understand failed, I yelled at him. My son is generally a very sensible kid and so, I try to be as gentle with him as possible. The sleepless nights for the past few days and the slack in my working schedule finally got on my nerves and I vented it out on the hapless boy last evening. I regretted it immediately and apologized to him. I don’t think he even remembered the incident when I put him to sleep last night but I stayed up feeling extremely annoyed with myself. Few drops of tears ran down my cheeks at this moment as I ruffled his hair. That’s when I saw the writing on his magic slate. It read,
Today is your last day on Earth. You have ten hours left and so go ahead and do whatever you want to.
The countdown to say goodbye has already begun.
P.S. – This is not a joke.
I read the message couple of times to ensure that this was not a prank on me. I tried deleting it by pressing the delete button above the writing area on the slate. The words were still prominently visible. It took me a while to understand what was happening. I was going to die and had only a few hours to savor my last moments on this planet.
Looking at my toddler and husband sleeping peacefully, I started shedding silent tears. Oblivious to the grief ahead, they were cuddled up. To get a grip on my emotions, I decided to walk out of the room towards the balcony. My father had arrived here a couple of weeks back to spend some time his grandson. I saw him reading the newspaper in the sitting room while passing through this area. After my toddler started school, I rarely had the luxury of spending time appreciating the beauty of nature. But today I decided to relish every single moment.
Despite a throbbing headache, everything around me felt new. I gazed at the pigeons flying out of their nest in the opposite apartment complex. I looked at the Kolkata sky covered with dark clouds that hinted towards heavy rains today, the potted plants in my balcony that had grown under my sons’ supervision and the fish in the aquarium sailing through the water. And then the realization hit me again. I was about to die in a few hours time. I shut the balcony door and started sobbing. And then I started thinking about my late mother. If there was one thing that looked positive in this devastating situation, it was the hope of meeting my mother in her heavenly abode.
But would my father be able to handle this pain for the rest of his life? He had already lost his life-partner seven years back. In 2016, when my husband and I decided to move back from Bangalore to Kolkata with our infant, the primary reason had always been our decision to let the child grow amidst the love and affection of his grandparents. In due course of time, my father had become so attached to his grandson that he had become the main reason for my father’s will for survival.
I thought of my husband. Being friends for more than two decades now, we had grown to trust each other unconditionally. We have been the biggest support system for each other. I wondered how he would manage his life without me. But I knew for a fact that these were adults who would probably learn to cope up with grief. My heart broke into pieces as I thought of my son, due to turn three years in about a months time. He would probably not even understand why his Mum went absconding on a random day. The reflections shattered me into pieces and I cried inconsolably.
After a while, I realized my tears were actually the reason for wastage of whatever little time I still had in my hands. So I decided to do what I have always done for the past twenty-five years, whenever I have been in a dilemma or crisis. I wrote down a list of items I had to finish before going away forever. This became the final list –
- Call my best friends in Australia and London respectively and tell them how much I value their friendship.
- Call my in-laws and let them know how much I appreciate their warmth and support towards me since the first day of becoming their daughter-in-law.
- Finish editing the climax of my debut novella ‘Deal of Death’ and leave the instructions with my husband as to how to put this up on Amazon.
- Schedule a blog post for midnight thanking everyone who read and supported me in my journey of becoming a writer.
- Spend the remaining hours of the day with my family because they would always be my first priority until the last breath.
I brought my mobile to the balcony and started making the calls. Though my friends were surprised at the sudden phone calls, it was a delight catching up with them after so long. I had kept postponing these calls assuming they were busy in their lives. My in-laws were a little taken aback at the sudden expression of emotions but they had long become accustomed to my impulsive outburst of emotions.
By the time I hung up, my husband and toddler had woken up. I ensured that the four of us had a relaxed breakfast together while I spoke a lot about the times we spent together in the last few years. Both my father and husband were surprised at these sudden flashes of nostalgia.
As my toddler made his father and grandfather join him for indoor football, I decided to finish editing the novel and write the blog post. It was difficult to bring about much perfection in writing within such a restricted time period but I managed to complete both. Leaving the instructions for publication over a mail to my husband, I suddenly wished I had worked at such a pace when I had the time. Quite a few times, I had chosen to blame unfavorable circumstances for being responsible for my slow progress at work.
Knowing it would be the last time I could do things for my son, I insisted on giving him a bath personally. All of us had lunch together. I looked at the hands of the clock screaming two p.m. which only meant that two more hours were left for me. I rocked the kid to sleep and kissed him good-bye. There were so many things that I wanted to tell him but he was too young to understand. And then the idea struck me. I could leave a letter to him, my husband and my father so that my memory stays alive for them.
While my husband went back to viewing the cricket match on TV, I started penning down three handwritten letters. To the son, I wrote about my undying love and care towards him and how I would always be watching over him from up there. To the husband, I spoke about our partnership and how I was going to miss him. I didn’t miss out on mentioning some specific instructions about bringing up the child (the control freak in me stayed alive till the last moment). To my father, I apologized for having to leave him alone in his old age but how I wished that I was born as his daughter again in the next birth. By the time I finished these letters and kept them folded inside the pages of my personal journal, I could feel the shortness in my breath. I decided to lie down in bed and let death take over my body.
Suddenly, I was jolted out of my sleep by the incessant screams of the toddler. He was awake and wanted me to join him as he played the game of flashcards. I sat up unable to comprehend the situation. The clock showed 8 am which meant it was still Sunday morning and I had been sleeping until now. So was it a dream that shook me up emotionally and made me appreciate the value of life? I hugged the toddler realizing what a life-shattering experience it had been through my dream. The magic slate was still lying on the bed but fortunately, there was no writing on it. I thanked God to have given me a second chance at living.
As I got down from the bed, I could almost visualize each of the items on my to-do list just as I had noted them down in my dream. I promised to attend to each of them during the course of the day. 12th August 2018 had taught me two things in life – gratitude and living in the moment. I was grateful for every single incident and item in my life now. And I decided to finally change the mindset that it was okay to postpone things to another day because I had finally understood the fact that life was certainly the most unpredictable gift of nature.
So what would you do if you knew that today was your last day and you only had a few more hours to live? Please leave your thoughts in the form of comments below.