Inspire – Women of Dartmouth Stories

My Guru

Simi Chopra-Mehta ’96 shares her process of understanding and internalizing a mother’s love

During the summer of 2013 my heart must have sunk into my stomach hundreds of times over after discovering my mother had contracted a rare form of cancer, cholangiocarcinoma. However, I wanted to believe she could beat this too; after all she was, and is, the strongest, most resilient person I know. No matter what, she would always keep moving forward, that is how she lived her life, and how she taught me to live mine. But after about two years of intensive treatment and several appointments with oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, and dietitians; on top of long, and often not very telling hospital-visits, I felt helpless and alone. The doctors never gave straightforward answers -anything could happen, they said. It wasn’t until I forcefully insisted on a prognosis that I received answers. The pathologist said she had three weeks, the oncologist said it could be three weeks to six months, and even these weren’t the lower or upper bounds. The tears rolled down my face and I sat still in my pain.

The pathologist was accurate as far as time goes. About three weeks later, my mother passed away after I gave her her last sip of water. I lost my mother. My best friend. The one constant in my life, from the very instant I stepped into it. I was heartbroken. I had lost a part of myself, as if an empty void had replaced that place that responded only to my mother’s presence.

With responsibility to tend to -young children and work -the distress and despair I felt was overwhelming, and yet life whisked me along at top speed, never allotting me the time to confront it. I continued to work to gain some stability and consistency. I kept questioning myself and second guessing my actions. How do I move forward when my emotions continue to paralyze me? For the first time in my life I was completely lost, and felt like I had no one to turn to. No one like my mother.

I wished with all my heart she would give me some sign. Some advice. I wished she would come in my dreams and speak to me, granting me that fairytale wish that would make things even slightly better, but nothing as such happened. Eventually, I realized that while my mother was gone, her wisdom was not. The blood and sweat she shed for her children had not been for nothing, and her eight grandchildren, my siblings,and I were living proof of that. She was an immigrant who assimilated to a new culture with three young daughters, was the primary breadwinner and wanted to stay true to her culture while she managed my father’s mental illness best she could, and all without emotional support from family in a land in which very few trusting ones existed. I realized that I had to make myself worthy of her; live life the way she would’ve wanted me to. As a result, I began praying and exercising more regularly, reminding myself and my children through words and actions what my mother stood for –gratitude, hard-work and honesty, and continue to live my life, and mother my children on this mantra.

Simi and her mother at dinner in 2011

Several years passed, and I understood more deeply with time, my mother was forever imprinted in me. My mother was with me still, in me, around me, in the wonderful life my husband and I were able to provide for our children. And with that, my life became lighter. Yes, I miss her each and everyday, and wish she was here with me in person to see how her grandchildren have grown. I wish I could hear her soothing words and feel her tender kisses and hugs when life is not going in the direction I’d hoped. And then like a jolt every time, I am reminded that nothing can ever take her memory away. Not even her death.

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