Thursday, July 10, 2008

A life worth living

I was going to write a humorous post today. But I’ve had a change of heart. I’d like to tell you a story instead. I hope you don’t mind.

This is the story of Divya.

I first met Divya when she was in her early twenties. She was born in the UK to parents who had emigrated here from India. She was a pretty, petite woman. She was skinny but also had a quite sensual appearance with long dark curly hair, big brown eyes and the sallow skin inherited from her parents.

I suspect she must have quite a tough upbringing in many ways. She was raised in a small red brick terrace that opened directly onto the street in a large urban town and I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of money for life’s little luxuries. I suspect Divya struggled too with cultural differences. From what I ascertain, her parents retained their own culture as much as possible but she appeared to embrace a more British way of life; a life with perhaps more personal freedoms than her heritage had foreseen. She studied and went to college, enjoyed her liberty, and shortly afterwards she got a temporary job where she met my brother.

My brother who was older than Divya and a long time bachelor was taken with her looks, her charm and her bubbly enthusiasm for life. So naturally, it was about this time too that I first met Divya. I felt she was a breath of fresh air in my brother’s life; I admired her friendliness and her vivaciousness. She dressed well in fashionable clothes that flattered her figure and I always found it amusing how she could flaunt a fake fur handbag with such audacity. A relationship developed between her and my brother and like other couples they fell in love and, in the course of time, they made plans to be married.

The possibility of marriage caused a little friction between my brother and my father who at that time was becoming increasingly frail and suffered severe pain; as it turned out he was actually dying from a misdiagnosed malignant tumour. Looking back, I feel his reluctance to accept the idea of marriage was as a result of him being drawn closer to his religion as his life was drawing to a close; the thought of his eldest son marrying out of the beliefs he held so deeply was a deep disappointment for him. Maybe his reaction wasn’t as it should have been but I also feel it was perfectly understandable given his age, beliefs and situation. I have always thought that this was the cause of the disharmony and not any personal dislike for Divya, who as far as I am aware, never held his reservations against him.

Amongst my other immediate family Divya was accepted without question despite our comparatively strict catholic upbringing. As children, my father never imposed his religion on us in an unpleasant, domineering fashion and I believe he taught us tolerance and understanding in his own understated and quiet way. His reservations about the marriage were silenced by my mother, always wise, who said “Don’t be so silly John; they will be alive when we are dead and gone. Don’t ruin their big day!” And so when the day arrived, the family were all present and correct.

I don’t know if there was conflict within Diyva’s family. Unfortunately, her father had been killed tragically in a car accident a few years before. But maybe in some ways this gave her freedoms she would not otherwise have had. I don’t know; I can only surmise.

The wedding was a civil ceremony held at a splendid location. It was truly a meeting of two cultures. Divya, who had embraced English culture but also retained much of her ancestry, wore a stunning red sari and looked absolutely fabulous. So did all her relatives who turned out in a colourful throng to support her. It was a cold winter’s day, the trees were bare and a few flakes of snow floated on the sharp breeze. Yet it was also a day full of colour, of laughter and of happiness. For me, that day says much of our British way of life; how it is possible that so many races and cultures can learn to live side by side, to be respectful of each other, to move forward in this ever challenging world.

For a few years my brother and his wife lived happily. The initial period was tinged with the sadness of my father’s slow and painful death. Divya, who was a wonderful cook, baked him cakes and sat by his bedside too as the cancer took his toll upon his ailing body. My belief that my father’s initial stubbornness to the marriage was not anything to do with her personally was confirmed. Indeed, he remarked to me in those last months that he had come to see her as another daughter.

Divya was young, pretty and ambitious but nevertheless after a few years of exotic holidays and working hard she gave birth to a baby daughter. As the result of two entirely different genetic backgrounds she is the visible evidence of our culturally diverse British society; she has her mother’s dark eyes and hair but the paler skin of her father. She is a natural beauty.

Divya though was still ambitious to succeed in her career. Possibly, this was the result of her modest background and a need to escape her past. I can only guess. Thus there came about a role reversal; my brother gave up his job to look after his daughter and when Diyva’s maternity leave ended she returned to work. Unfortunately, this is where things began to go wrong. It is not for me to dissect my brother’s relationships or make judgements. I will only say that I do not believe it was cultural differences that made the marriage flounder but more likely the issues of age and perhaps of dreams and aspirations.

And so, in the course of time, the marriage ended. There was, I am certain, hurt on both sides.

They say time heal all wounds. Who can say. But eventually my brother found a new partner and his angst began to subside. My loyalty was to my brother and I lost touch with Divya but I listened with interest to the little bits of information that were passed to me about her life. After several failed relationships, she too settled down with a new long term partner and her career progressed. Both she and my brother had both moved on in their lives but, I believe, were nevertheless still united in their love for their daughter. Finally to complete the transformation, 5 weeks ago Divya gave birth to a baby boy. It seemed everyone was now happy, the circle now complete.

The telephone rang this morning at half past eight.

Divya has suddenly and unexpectantly died.

I do not, as yet, know the finer details; I believe it may be a Group A streptococcal infection that her body, in its post pregnancy state, could not fight off.

I am truly sad. I am sad for my brother, his daughter, for Diyva’s partner, for their new baby son and also for Diyva’s mother who has had two such awful tragedies to bear. But most of all I feel sad for Divya; she has left this world too soon. Her gaiety, her enthusiasm, her obvious enjoyment at being alive was a rich gift. I feel guilt too that I did not re-establish our relationship once the grievances had passed. It was negligent of me.

I am always more deeply affected by the deaths of young people and children. It saddens me greatly to think of lives lost before they have reached fruition. That the chance to share love and laughter, to experience the full beauty of this life, which perhaps can only be appreciated fully as one grows older and wiser, is lost. And sometimes too there is an emptiness left behind for those who had loved them that is never truly filled again.

So once again, as I grow old, I contemplate the meaning of this life, this universe. I have my own religious beliefs based on nothing more than that I know my simple mind cannot understand the complexities of Life. However, when I look around at this world, this beauty… and yes, the horror too… I cannot believe everything I see is here by chance, by fortune. I believe there is a higher understanding, a knowledge that is unobtainable in this life. I believe that on death there is a joy to be found that is far greater than we can ever imagine.

And so, whilst I say farewell to Divya in this life, I also believe that whatever the Gods she believed in, whatever she will miss in this life, I also feel that somehow she will be rewarded in the next one.

In whatever shape or form it will take.

This is your story Divya.

And wherever you are, may you find peace, happiness and joy.


  1. Oh Jane.
    I am so sorry.
    You do her great justice.

  2. Oh Jane my dear ,condolences .Such a beautiful tribute .

  3. Jane, thanks for sharing. That was so sad - a short life lived with such intesity. May she rest in peace.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh I am so sorry.

    What a lovely gift you have given Divya, to share her with all of us.

    Life is so wonderful and yet so hard at the same time. A lovely new baby but a lost mother. How heartbreaking.

    You and your family and Divya's family are in my prayers.


  5. Mrs G & Usha,
    Thanks for your words my friends; they are much appreciated.


    Welcome, and thank you for your kind words and prayers. Life, it seems, sometimes tests us to the full; there is never an easy answer. Not in this life anyway.

    I hope you'll return when I'm in a more sunny frame of mind. Thanks, once again.

  6. Jane,I'm with you in believing that death is just a part of the journey of the soul in it's growing.
    What a tribute you have given Divya. My thoughts are with Maia and her little brother, and all the others who mourn her.

  7. Yes, I think you expressed that very well Sue....

    "Death is just a part of the journey of the soul in it's growing."

    Just the right words.

  8. Words can seem too inadequate at times, but you've used them in the best and most effective way to create this beautiful tribute. My condolences.

  9. Goodness. I'm so sorry for the loss in your family, even though she was no longer "family" by marriage. A beautiful tribute, Jane.

  10. Thanks PB and Tamera.

    I've not written anything at all lately after hearing this shocking and sad news but I must try today -otherwise I may end up writing a melancolic and depressing Northern saga. And then I would feel even worse. This thing called Life is so perplexing at times.

  11. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal yet meaningful post.

    Although I'm only 28 years of age, I've experienced personal losses with family members, family friends, and even close high school friends. Every person lost has been difficult to bear and reading this post reminds me how precious life truly is.

    Thank you for prompting me to cherish those who are with us today. I can't help but feel appreciation and respect to those who passed on yet made an impact on our lives.

    My prayers are with you and your family. Take good care of yourself, Mrs. T.

  12. Dear Mrs T
    Divya was actually my cousin and i am deeply saddened by her passing. I currently live in the states and just recently a day or two before was thinking about her and wanting to catch up with her. since my move 13years ago i had not beenin contact and now it is too late. thank you for writing kind words about her.
    i am so sorry!

  13. Mewie,

    Thank you Mewie for your words and prayers.

    Yes, life is precious and we should do our best to make the most of it. That isn't always easy but to use your phrase if we try "sharing life on life" it makes difficult times a lot easier.

    Divya's cousin,

    The power of the internet always amazes me... here we are separated by oceans, never having met, and yet we can share the same grief. Moments like these give me faith in humanity.


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