Kuzuzangpo la! I am Yeega Lhamo. I am 26 years old. To share my story, it goes back to Mongar from five years ago.
I used to live with my mother. She worked tirelessly in the field to feed her family. She was the only breadwinner. About my father, I don’t know who is he, how he looks, and literally, I know nothing about him. I don’t have a clue about his whereabouts. My ama said he left us all when I was just 6 years old. He found a new woman and went to the capital, leaving his wife and three children in the village. We lived in a small wooden hut and it was surrounded by trees. My mother took the utmost care in nurturing those trees and always loved them like her own children. She loved nature.
Life wasn’t easy. As the eldest child in my family, I often found myself boosting my self-esteem to keep it going because I felt crushed many a time. Every time I reached home from school, I used to help my mother in the field and do the household chores. It broke my heart to see her work day in and day out, drenched in pools of perspiration. She worked really hard for her children.
Suddenly, my mother started to fall sick. She was admitted to the hospital and nothing worked for her. I could see her in pain as her frail body rested against the wall of the hospital in Mongar. Staying by her side, I used to cry and often talk to my thoughts revolving inside my mind. My two younger siblings used to stay back and take care of themselves in our mother’s absence. They were sensible enough. Rolling days were hard. I did not see any improvement in her health. It deteriorated as weeks went by within the four walls of the hospital ward.
One day, it was around 2:16 am, my mother started having sudden shortness of breath. Her breath came in ragged, shallow gasps. She was having a hard time, trying to breathe. I immediately informed the doctor in charge and she went rushing through the doors. She swarmed all over my mother, she tried to gently pat her back and bring her back to the normal breathing phase. I reached forward to clasp it, her earthly limbs stood still. Her fragile, human heart beat one last time. We failed that night. My mother left us all that very moment. Her lips were pale. She couldn’t breathe anymore, her respiration rate dropped to zero. I was shocked to death. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My eyes welled up and I cried the entire night, imagining the smiley face of my mother. It broke me into a million pieces.
The following days, I had to get help from my neighbors and ask some of our relatives to help us with the funeral rites. A thick lump of sadness clouded my heart and I was in tears most of the days. Sadness threatened to overwhelm my mind. Noticing the grieved expressions on the faces of my siblings, I tried to act strong and be brave for them. I had to be the next breadwinner.
My relatives suggested me to hoist 108 prayer flags for the deceased soul of my mother. It is a tradition practiced even to this day. It is believed erecting prayer flags deliver the dead person from the state of Bardo. With this belief, they said we can chop the trees grown around our hut and use them. But nothing felt right deep inside my heart. My late mother had been taking good care of those trees. She treated them like her own children. I am also fond of nature and thought of trees like any other living beings. Trees have a life as we do. I couldn’t imagine cutting them down, which felt like murdering them and letting them bleed profusely to death. It also felt like cutting down trees simply ruined the homes of numerous birds and insects. It pained me to even think of chopping those living trees. We would lose a part of our mother if we cleared them all. Her soul would never rest in peace for killing someone (trees) for her. I couldn’t let that happen. Everything mattered for my late mother, starting from the smallest insects to giant trees.
So, I gathered several friends from school and other neighbors, then we started to dig holes around the house and planted young tree saplings in place of prayer flags. We planted 108 young tree seedlings for almost a week. We made the necessary funeral rites and prayed for my mother’s quick rebirth. It made me happy. My mother would have proudly looked at us from above. Whenever I went towards those tree saplings, it felt like my mother was still with us. She exists in our thoughts and prayers, now and forever.
It’s the year 2020. Those trees are now tall and jovially surrounding the house. I got a job in one of the private companies and I look after my siblings. We miss our dear mother. However, the trees around our home feel like her arms are around us, loving and protecting us against all odds in life. I hug the trees like they are my mother. It gives me great joy and strength. I feel at home.
I used to love, I still love, and shall always love trees. I find my mother in them. I find peace.
Message: Plant as many trees as possible. They will protect us like our own mother and give us peace. Do not murder them. They have a life as well. Trees do have a life just like you do. You don’t have to be an environmentalist to protect nature, the responsibility to do it falls on every one of us. So, stop cutting down trees for your selfish reasons. Encourage yourself and others to plant new ones. Our mother earth needs more trees to save us all.
For hoisting prayer flays, try using strong bamboos and steel for poles as alternatives provided by our government.
Genre: Fiction story with fictitious names and places.
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Picture courtesy: @manfrom_east17