The ever-growing vine of fear that is a mother’s death

Throughout the day, I carry the gentle flow of love in me – in delicate bottles – liquid and in abundance, softly pouring into my soul at regular intervals as I go about my business. A caressing finger brush, legs folded into a caring lap, and glistening eyes all go through this being of mine. On and on it travels till I'm bursting at the seams with it, a split second away from collapsing under the weight of love and love's endless anguish.

Out of all of this affection, mother holds the lion's share, with me serving as the harbour of her existence, keeping me afloat. How I keep my anguish and helplessness at bay, take comfort in the fact that she is there to protect me, that her warm fingertips would on some days chill my head, on others wipe away my sorrows, and on others wrap me in a blanket of motherly embrace. 

I shall always be her little girl as long as she is alive. 

As a result, I'm paralysed with anxiety. The unavoidable prospect of living without her consumes my heart and soul with anguish and horror, and the heart becomes a prison. With its ill-begotten certainties, it crushes my heart and suffocates my lungs, symbolising the funeral of my childhood at the loss of my mother. 

She will pass away one day; I am well aware of this. This is something I must embrace. This is something I need to prepare for. This is beyond my comprehension.

Then this delicate bottle topples over and I sob for the absence of my mother even as she continues to live. Life without her, life without her, life without her; I dismantle and rebuild myself, piece by piece, until the new edifice is unstable and unattached from the rest of the world. As reality begins to wrap its fleshy claws around my shoulder, I am plunged into a torment of a nightmare.

When night becomes day and the sun sends its rays through the window, my sadness transforms into her morning garments, which are stained in fear and concern. Every time she leaves the house, every time she is out of my reach, all I can think about is the possibility of her never coming back. As the clock ticks away, so do my thoughts, consumed with a bleak imagination about my mother, who may be dead at any minute and yet appear to be extremely alive until I discover the truth about her. Certainty does not exist in this world, and I am well aware of this. 

Nowhere am I more aware of and affected by this than in my mother's precarious existence. I'm not sure how long she'll be at my side, and I'm not sure how long I'll be her little girl, and the turmoil of it all is a creeping poison that eats away at me gradually. It's a living hell. When I see her hair becoming grey, when I see her growing old and elegant – I shed tears bitterly, knowing that the scales will always lean in favour of the reality but never in favour of my love.

Shadya Naher Sheyam attempts to live life like Ashima from The Namesake. Talk to her about Mira Nair films at