A Letter About My Mother to My Son

Dear Tsüktiren,

         I decided to write you a letter, a letter from me to the grown up you, a letter for you to read later when you can comprehend the words I scribble here. Now my emotions are raw. Do not mistake me Tsüktiren, I do not doubt your ability to grasp things beyond your age but I know that you are not able linguistically, too fully understand these words now.

    As Mother’s Day draws nearer, as a mother I am constantly thinking of you and my own mother (your grandmother- Aiee). I miss her dearly and you do too, whether you are able to express it or not. I worry about you as you think of her and talk about her. It smacks me in my face every moment the reality of losing her, it’s still so fresh. I truly understand now what the philosopher Roland Barthes wrote in his diary while mourning for his mother that everyone was exceptionally nice, but how alone he felt. I am surrounded by well-wishers but I weep for her every day and I think of you and how much you must grieve too. There is a rhythm to this and a circle of agony. I feel sorry for you.

          I saw wave after wave of emotion and disappointment in the depths of your eyes when I tried to explain that she will never return to you again. There was anger, confusion, pain and misery. I saw it all and you voiced a sound I have never heard before, a tone somewhere in between a roar, a yowling and a scream. You are only three; you have a limited vocabulary to express your feelings and yet you voiced this distress. I was taken aback, but I realised then that your heart is broken as much as mine and I felt helpless in front of you. She was yours as much as mine. For you to feel that sorrow, I weep for you as much as I weep for myself. We both and many of us lost her so recently and so suddenly. What an amazing mother and grandmother she was to us all! What a great loss! When she died we all felt that “every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive” [from the novel Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami]

         Sometimes it dawns on me that you are so young and within a year you could forget her and these precious memories will become hazy. So I have frantically saved her photos, printed them and made sure they are saved online, and did everything to make her memory as tangible as possible. I have constantly asked you this month about Aiee without realising how much grief I must have given you. You would recall and remember the songs, bible verses, and prayers she taught you. Hearing you sing them for us broke our hearts as you delivered them in the most melancholic voice. My dear Tsüktiren, I am sorry you had to go through that. I was desperate to know that you remembered her and of course you did. Your heart is bigger than mine, though not physically, and can hold so much more than I can. You played along and even wiped my tears.

         There are circumstances beyond our control you will surely face in the future too. Darkness like now will descend on you like a fog and before you know it, you will be surrounded by it. It will not make sense then to get back to the light and it will be so much easier to pretend that it doesn’t even exist like the dust on the roads of Dimapur. We must be prepared to talk about the darkness and to overcome it not by ourselves but with the help of our God, the good Shepherd. I want you to read Psalms 23. ‘Why?’ you might wonder, but when you read this psalm you will realise that this is exactly what we are going through right now. We are currently walking in total dreadful darkness and we can only go on and not collapse in this darkness because we are led by our God, the Shepherd. There is hope and there is light up in the mountains. I know that all of us, and you especially, will climb that mountain with the leading of our shepherd and see the light. “I am half agony, half hope”  [Wentworth once wrote this to Anne in Persuasion by Jane Austen.] though this is taken from a different context, I resonate right now with this phrase. I am distressed yet I have hope in the living God and in the promise of the resurrection. I believe we will meet her in heaven one day if we walk the path that God has set for us. If we walk in His will. I do not think we can forget her, but we can overcome our fear and not let grief take over.

         Today I want to tell you why we should halt grief at the shores of our hearts. Your Aiee lived the most amazing life. I am not saying she lived a fairy-tale princess life, unless the princess was a hardworking, brave, and independent female. She lived a very admirable life. The tale needs telling from the beginning if you are to immerse yourself fully in here.

    As all stories of Nagas begin, it’s important to state where her ancestry began. Not so long ago (she was only 56 when she left us for glory) your Aiee, Temsurenla was born to Tebuchiba Imchen and Mayanglemla on September 28th 1962. It started in Mangmetong Village with the Mapa Temba Kidong. Tebuchiba and Mayanglemla lived in their forefathers’ village before your grandmother, Aiee was born but one significant day God told your great grandmother, Mayanglemla to pack up and leave for Mokokchung. So here I am talking about your ancestry not for the purpose you might imagine, but because I am talking about your spiritual ancestry. Your great grandmother was a spiritual, God-led woman. She listened to God’s direct orders and with no plan but just simple faith, as simple as it can get, she packed up and waited for your great grandfather to return home from the forest. When he arrived in the evening to his surprise there was a party in his house. When he entered he saw that his wife had packed everything, slaughtered all their pigs and had invited and fed the whole village. Oblivious to God’s instructions to his wife…

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