Sales Assistant: “How can I help you? Are you shopping for something special”?
Me: “My daughter passed away from a drug overdose and I need to dress her up for her funeral”.
Sales Assistant: “Oh, Okay, Oh - I’m sorry for your loss. What size was she”?
I was angry, bitter, confused, sad, shocked, and feeling like life had short-changed me! Lilly - why did it have to come to this? Why was I shopping for your funeral? You are not going to like what I choose! I settled for a chiffon long-sleeved midi dress with a high round neck. I could feel Lilly’s disgust & exasperation. I could see her rolling her eyes at me saying - Really mum? This is what you chose!
Shopping for the items that were needed for the prayers was even worse. I had been down the aisles of the Indian grocery store many times. I had organized my mother and father in-laws funerals. I knew what items to get, the significance of those items, how and when the items would be used. This time it was different. This time, the items were for my child. I was sobbing uncontrollably.
I was a wreck all morning and on the way to the funeral home. The tears would not stop and I had a lot of anxiety. Asmita had always styled Lilly’s hair. She insisted on accompanying me to the funeral home to style Lilly’s hair one last time. Suddenly, as I parked, a feeling of calm and courage took over me. I was going to have my special time with Lilly. I left Asmita in the foyer and walked into the room where Lilly was laying. She looked beautiful. It was like she was sleeping and would wake up at any moment. I gently stroked her beautiful hair and started talking to her. Surprisingly not a single tear. I felt her presence in the room. I felt her communicating with me. This was our special time alone.
I performed the necessary rituals and prayers and got her dressed. All the while talking to her. Again, I knew she was listening, I knew she was there, I knew she was giving me love, strength, and a deeper understanding of why she had to go. I put on her jewelry: her favorite key necklace that said ‘Fearless’, a necklace with her sun sign, her bracelets (including a Tasbih (rosary)), and a beautiful gold/white gold ring that my mum had gifted her. I covered her with her favorite shawl.
A month ago:
Lilly: ”Mum, I love your shawl, I want it”
Me: “No Lilly, you always ruin all the nice things I give you”
Lilly: “Mum, please I won’t. I really like your shawl, please mum”
Me: after a few seconds - “Here you go, wear it, enjoy it, I love you”
Lilly: “Nah, I don’t want it... I was only testing you to see how much you love me”
Me: “Really Lilly”
Lilly: Giving me a huge hug “I know you love me, I just say this because I know it gets to you. I’ll take the shawl when I want it”
I finally called Asmita in. She had her time with Lilly to say what she wanted while she styled her hair. It was always Gudiya and Lalli, Lalli & Gudiya, and it will always be that way.
The next day was the funeral......
Imagine our shock when we walked in! The chapel was over filled with flower arrangements. There was no space. The additional arrangements had to be placed outside the chapel. Family and friends had sent their prayers and love in the form of beautiful flowers. In addition, there were flowers from people who we didn’t know but whose lives Lilly had touched.
Lilly looked gorgeous. She looked peaceful. She looked like she always did when she slept. I felt that she would get up at any moment and say - psych, just wanted to see how much you’d miss me.
Even more shocking were the stories that we heard from her near and dear ones at the visitation. How she had saved a few from committing suicide, how she was the reason why a few were sober, how she helped a few when they relapsed, how she helped families come together, how she was tutoring autistic children, how she was tutoring kids in biology, how she showed her love by sending care packages. Parents with stories of how Lilly touched them and made a difference in their lives. Lilly had a big heart that loved and cared for others, then why could she not love herself?
The funeral home gave me all the beautiful cards and messages that were sent. I have the package on my desk but have not had the courage or heart to open and read them. The house was also filled with flowers, cards, fruit baskets, and gifts. Again, I have not had the courage to open the cards and read them.
Our family was calm and collected throughout the ceremony. The heart wrenching moment came when we said our final goodbyes. The five of us will never forget the sound of the lock when the casket was closed. Lilly was finally free from her demons. Her suffering and torment were over. Spiritually, Lilly was in a beautiful place. By the grace of god, she was at eternal peace. It was not till the private prayer ceremony in the crematorium that I realized, I was not mourning her death, I was in fact mourning my loss.
We made our way to the chapel and closed the private ceremony by thanking everyone. I read the poem ‘A child of mine’ by Edgar Albert Guest. The angels had come and taken my Lilly, my child, who was never really mine.