My friend Sarah passed away a few months ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but she came into my life to help me move on from the losses and trauma that I had endured in recent years. Sarah and I always gave each other flowers. Her favourite was sweetpeas. She introduced me to kettlebells, and her kindness encouraged me to let go of things that no longer served me. And to have fun.
However, before I could gain awareness of these truths, I went through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief.
The following excerpt is from my memoir Kindness, Kale & Kettlebells: A Journey to self-awareness.
When I heard of Sarah’s death, I couldn’t sleep. I cursed the night for being so long. It was endless. It felt like forty-eight hours trapped in the dark. I called another friend, Karun at 23.00. We spoke until midnight. I got into bed. My body heaved as I made loud, intermittent wails. I slept at dawn and woke to the sound of texts. It must be Sarah. I knew it was all a big mistake.
I picked up my mobile. It was Karun.
“Good morning Sudhana…xxx
Have you slept? We know the grief will pass.
Remember her in prayer.
Celebrate your times together. She has left you what she was going to leave.
A peaceful day to you. Remember, we love you. We are here.’’
I dropped my children off at school that morning and returned home. I pulled down the blackout blinds in the lounge, put my mobile on silent and just sat for hours in the dark. At some point in the afternoon, my friend John called to check on me. He described how Sarah had died. That weekend, in a busy home, I was angry. I jealously guarded my agonising, piercing grief. I wanted to be alone with it. I wanted to talk to Sarah. Just once. I wanted to laugh with her. There was so much more we had to talk about. Then I was furious with her; how dare she leave me like this? I had cheated death twice.
I dreaded the nights. If I slept at all, I woke to the cruel arrow of sorrow – piercing my heart, reminding me of my loss. Sarah was dead. When my mobile rang, I still expected it to be her. I started crying in public, sometimes in mid-sentence. I couldn’t eat. I would go to her place of work and linger outside, willing her to come out. My loss brought to mind all my other losses. My marriage, my loss of courage and confidence, the loss of sleep, my reputational loss, my life-long career.
Eventually, I opened the seal on Yamuna Devi’s books, A Life of Unalloyed Devotion. Sarah had given them to me three years previously. I started reading and finished both books a day later. In the first book, Yamuna Devi described how the recordings with George Harrison and the London followers came about. One of the songs was “Aum Purnamadah”, a Vedic peace invocation. I looked through my CDs and found it. For three months, that’s all I played. As I drove, I placed my right hand on the speaker, just allowing the powerful vibration to fill my heart, mind and soul.
Towards the end of Yamuna’s second book, she quotes:
‘As a player sets up and disperses his playthings, according to his own sweet will, so the supreme will of the Lord brings men together and separates them.’
Srimad Bhagavatam 1.13. 43
Sarah’s death allowed me to assimilate my final realisation of the past seven years
Dear Reader, the next time you are at the baggage carousel at Heathrow, you may see big, heavy suitcases, with soft, silky ribbons and the words “Wild at Heart”, tied to the handles. That would be me.
In late September, I ordered sweet pea seeds and planted them. ‘I didn’t think you would depart so soon. Yours was a short, sweet life,’ I said to Sarah, as I gently buried the seeds in the rich, dark compost. My tears landed on the dry soil, which greedily absorbed the nourishment. Every day I would look at the vast pot and will the seeds to germinate. Three weeks later, they did. Tiny, green shoots in the massive brown barrel.
A month later, long stalks emerged, almost overnight.
Three weeks after that, the stalks collapsed.
One late November morning, I woke up and went downstairs to look at Sarah’s sweet peas. The collapsed stalks had grown nodes of support. The emerald-green succulent stalks were strong and sturdy.
John was home from Paris by that point, so we arranged to meet at Browns for breakfast. It was the first meal that had I shared outside the house since Sarah’s death.
‘I know what I want to do,’ I declared.
‘I’m starting my memoir. It’s about being true to myself…’