What My Mother's Death Taught Me About Being Mindful

Written by Sweta Vikram

On the morning of May 30, my husband and I received a call: my mother was in the ICU in New Delhi. I thought it was a bad joke because my mother wasn’t sick. I had spoken with her just the day before. She and my Dad were headed to India’s paradise, Kashmir, for a vacation. How did the detour happen?

I asked questions but remained calm. I had no power over the circumstances, but I could control my attitude.

Mom was put on the ventilator; I packed my bags for India, made a few personal calls, rescheduled my appointments, and cleaned out the refrigerator. My mother taught us to never waste food or live in mayhem. I couldn’t accept the poetic irony: that very evening I was scheduled to read my cheeky poems about mothers at a coveted venue in Manhattan since it was the month of Mother’s Day. Instead of reading my poems to an audience, I was whispering prayers to no one in particular on our way to the airport.

We can plan all we want; life has a mind of its own. Fourteen hours later, when we landed in New Delhi, everything had changed. I was in a motherless world, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to live and breathe in the moment.

I understood very well that I had to step up to make sure every ritual was done the way my mother would have wanted. Not for once did I believe that my way was the best way, but it was the only way that ensured that no one exploited my Dad’s vulnerabilities. I was now the matriarch. Life is fuller when you are mindful and considerate of others.

A week later, when my husband and I returned back to NYC, I finally found the time to evaluate my life and mourn my loss. Don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.

As a Type-A, New York-based freelance writer with pressing deadlines (who also loves cooking and entertaining), I have always had an excuse to be busy. I had too much noise in my life. Calendars booked and weekends planned eight weeks ahead of time. I started to look inward: Life is a gift, and I hadn’t expressed my full gratitude for today.

Why was I so busy watching out for what was ahead and not cherishing living in the present? Did I know what I was doing? Was I even awake and aware of the journey in my quest for the final destination? Who were my companions on this ride? I had to pay attention to my present moment.

I realized that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that time should be spent being kind, sharing positivity, inspiring others, following my dream, and in the company of people who add value to my life. In return, I enrich their lives somehow. People aren’t always good or bad; sometimes, we are just different. The differences become apparent when a life-altering event occurs — it tells you who you can count on. The older we get, the fewer people we can rely on, but that’s a good thing because we get to declutter our lives.

While the loss of my mother is irreplaceable and has left a hollow in my heart, my life feels much richer and happier with mindfulness and yoga as a part of it. I feel a transformation in my thinking and lifestyle. I have surrounded myself with kind and positive people and nurture solid relationships, because life is a terrible thing to waste.

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