The Day When My Father-in-law Passed Away

2 years ago, at this time, Ranjit and I conveyed our decision of not to put my ailing father-in-law on a ventilator to the Neurologist. In the next 20 mins the doctor told us he was no more, and I realized I lost not a father-in-law, but a father who loved me unconditionally, protected me fiercely and watched over me all the time.

When I chose the words "Life's race well run, life's work well done, life's crown well won -- now comes rest", to be embossed on the gravestone, Ranjit broke down and cried. My mother-in-law asked me what it meant, and when I translated it for her, she smiled and said, "he will be happy to know that his children appreciate his efforts." My eyes welled at the implicit inclusion of me when she said 'his children'.

When I was a new bride and was struggling to adjust to completely alien customs and lifestyle, my father-in-law stood by me always telling me that I need not change my lifestyle but just understand theirs. Every time he overheard Ranjit and I having a little tiff, he would shout at Ranjit saying "she left everything and stepped into our family. Is this how you speak to her?". That would put a full stop to the tussle and leave me smiling and Ranjit fuming. I close my eyes now and his thundering voice still rings in my ears.

I repaid all the affection by being ignorant of what a brain stroke is, how to identify the signs, and what to do when we see them. I saw him struggle every single day for a month with black outs, memory loss and internal bleeding, signs that should shake anyone up irrespective of whether one knows about brain strokes or not but I was happy with his explanations of "oh the floor is slippery and I fell down, I am getting old and I can’t remember anything, I cut my tongue and its bleeding". I even associated the brief paralysis of his face to uncle missing his regular dose of his BP tablets -- a simple explanation that a neighborhood doctor gave which sounded perfectly convincing at that point in time.

I sensed something was wrong only when Ranjit started worrying that uncle stopped eating food and was refusing to talk and looks like he did not recognize most of the people. We rushed him to the hospital but he refused to cooperate with the doctors. Doctors told us that he was losing time and if he did not agree to be treated, they won't be able to do much. That’s when we took the first tough decision, and he was tied down to the bed and shifted to ICU. Ranjit, and I went in to check on him and saw the tall, strong, athletic man reduced to a helpless heap, too weak to even open his eyes, his hands and legs tied to the bed and a dozen tubes running all over his body. We silently walked out of the ICU, took the stairs instead of the elevator, sat down on the steps and cried, incapable of consoling each other. We had to be strong for my mother-in-law and for Raunak and had no clue how.

Just a month after he passed away, a friend gave me a book about the mechanics of the brain and the narrative starts with an explanation about the signs of a stroke. My father-in-law had classic symptoms that would not have gone unnoticed only if any of us knew about it. Ignorance is not an excuse, and I can never forgive myself for being ignorant. It cost my father-in-law's life!

I feel I led you to your death. Sorry uncle. But minutes before you left us, the last flicker of recognition I saw in your eyes, the message you tried to convey to me through them with tears streaming down your face, I captured in my heart and will not forget it until I am dead. I understood the unspoken message, and I will not let you down. Thank you for everything.