WORDS AND TOUCH
I have had occasion to think about this. I turn this issue around and ask: “If I lay dying but was still conscious, what would I like people to say to me?” Here, the answer is clear to me. Most of all, I would like them to not wear a long or morose face. I would like them to be smiling and companionable. I would not like them to discuss the weather as though I were not there. I would not like them to discuss my medical condition. I would like them to touch me and say anything, even awkwardly anything, that has the pronouns “I” and “you” in the sentence. If a child says: “That poetry book you gave me, I read it all the time” that would be wonderful. If an adult says: “You’ve meant so much to me…”, what more can one ask for? But then I wonder: What would I say to them?
In the Bengali language, it is most awkward to say “I love you” except between romantic lovers. For other purposes, there is no equivalent expression. So this sentiment is never expressed in words. How very sad! The last time I saw my father, when we both knew this could be the final visit, he sat next to me and touched me lightly, and said, quite out of context: “You are my favorite person.” To this day I wonder if he realized how much he gave me then, in that instant, with those few words, to sustain me the rest of my life.
Sometimes it is necessary to say a thing, no matter how awkward – to tell a person, in words and in touch, who he or she is to you.