A death, and a life asking to be loved
The gift of grief, being open, and that calm, safe place
“There is so much mumbo-jumbo in our love story, I don’t know how you are going to write it," Randy tells me. He almost looks sorry for me.
“She will find a way," Geet reassures him.
Geet is an Indian woman in her 40s and Randy is an American man in his 50s. They met on Twitter less than two years ago and got married in Delhi last month. There was a lot of dancing. Geet has two daughters under the age of 10 and Randy has a son who is 18. They are a blended family now.
Randy and I have something essential in common. We are both in love with Geet. I have a head-start on him because I have known Geet since both of us were 18 and studying psychology together. Randy gets to spend all his time with Geet now. This may or may not be his advantage over me.
I like love stories because of the mysteries embedded in them. It takes years to realize what it is exactly that made two people choose each other. What makes them stay?
“Geet keeps repeating a line," Randy shares with me. “She keeps saying that being with me calms her down." I am tempted to elaborate on what Geet means, but it isn’t my place to do so. Randy knows a very calm Geet. One who writes fragments of poetry in her Twitter feed, reads for hours and wakes up early to spend time alone with trees, grass and sky.
Randy is a therapist who specializes in family counselling. “Twenty years of practice couldn’t save my first marriage, but it informs all my choices and reactions in my personal life," he says. “I’m not your average guy, you know. I am very much in touch with my softer, more vulnerable side. Yet being with Geet makes me feel open in a way that I have never experienced before. She is my safe place. The solace that I have not known for a long time."
Twitter is the location where Randy and Geet first met. They had been following each other for a while when Randy announced the death of a woman whose Twitter account Geet had been familiar with too. “This is the part that is seemingly inexplicable. It was a watershed moment for me. I had never met the woman who had died. Yet Cecelia had been my closest friend online. We were in love with each other. We had planned to meet, we had even booked tickets on one occasion but she had become ill and had cancelled the meeting. Cecelia had been diagnosed with advanced bone marrow cancer. She gave me the news on the phone in what turned out to be our last conversation. We spoke of love in the face of death. Then she dropped off my radar completely. When she became unresponsive to my messages and phone calls for a few days, I panicked and began to check the obituary section every day in the local newspaper of her city. I found out that she had passed on," says Randy.
Randy lost his father when he was 11. He tells me that his family was so broken that he couldn’t cry, despite his grief. His mother and stepfather had their own challenges. He would try to console his younger brother and barely got a chance to process his own feelings. Randy remembers being very angry in his growing-up years.
“Cecelia’s death broke something open in me that had always prevented me from crying. I had been carrying frozen tears inside me and Cecelia’s death thawed me. I cried uncontrollably for three weeks. My Twitter community rallied together to support me and honour Cecelia."
Both Geet and Randy have been meditating for many years of their adult life. This is where the mumbo-jumbo part of their story peaks. Geet had never contacted Randy but she was witness to his grief on Twitter. She was in meditation one day when she saw a man she didn’t recognize. She noted his clothes and boots. He was sitting with his feet propped up on his desk. Later she saw Cecelia as she sat there with her eyes shut. Cecelia spoke to Geet and asked her to get in touch with Randy.
Geet says she asked another online friend if she would seem like a crazy person if she sent a message to Randy about what she had seen. Her friend told her that she was crazy anyway so she shouldn’t worry about that any more. Four days later, she sent a message to Randy on Twitter and described the image of the man she had seen. Randy recognized himself.
Sitting in front of me on a sunny winter afternoon, holding his iced coffee drink, Randy pinches himself. “We have had way too many clairvoyant moments since we have known each other. It’s like I have reached a place in my existence where I am being shown the way. I have to let go of my resistance."
Geet is a special educator and is on her way to Harvard University as a visiting scholar this summer. She has never been married before. She is the first person I know who put out her own matrimonial ad in her late 20s and met potential partners all by herself. I couldn’t make much sense of it at that age. When Geet wants something, she looks for it directly. She doesn’t settle for anything that doesn’t work for her. When she didn’t find the love she might have wanted to marry, she decided to adopt the children she wanted to have. First Indya and then Maaya became her daughters. Geet’s father had died before she was five years old. Her twin sisters were younger than her. Geet’s mother became her role model as she brought her own daughters home to be a single parent to them.
“Do you realize how extraordinary this woman is?" I say to Randy. I try not to let my words sound too much like a Punjabi mother-in-law proclaiming that her child’s mere presence is a favour to the rest of the world.
“I know! She is an overachiever and a very tough woman. In fact, I have that tough exterior too. Sometimes that worries me. We have held up too much for others when we were very young. Therein lies our connection too. We had these anonymous accounts on Twitter where we had created a space for our poetic, more authentic selves. Poetry is an expression of vulnerability and desire. It seeks to create balance. That resonated with each other first. We have to remember to keep that space and that connection sacred," says Randy.
“Did you worry that you might be on the rebound?" I ask Randy.
“I had the gift of grief," he says. “A kind of grief that is also healing. I had nothing to lose any more. The rest of my life was asking to be lived. And loved."
“How does one love someone else’s children?" I read out this question from my notebook.
“Loving someone but not having enough love in other places of our lives can doom that love. Love needs gratitude and humility to be able to stay," says Randy. “It needs openness. Geet embraced my mother as soon as they met. She calls her once a week. She restores parts of me that were exhausted. I come from a very fragmented family. Geet’s family and friends are a close-knit community. There is so much love and loyalty. Sometimes I feel that families choose us. Our children know that we have chosen each other."
There is a purpose behind every love that we feel in our lives. In the harsh daylight of mutual expectations and insecurities, it is not always easy to remember what that might be. Realization visits us like a migratory bird in the garden. The unexpected magic of it mesmerizes us even when we cannot name it or show it to another person. We are touched by beauty and that rejuvenates us.
Love moves us. We’ve all been moved; packed or not, we have moved.