Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A Daughter's Passing

Sujata Massey



On that morning, who says I’m not there?

I’m in the stars, in the stars

In the blades of the grass

In the wind, in the wind

In the blue of the sky.

--Rabindranath Tagore

 

My father read this comforting poem to me over Zoom last week, and I wept. 

 

Our family had suffered the unthinkable: the death of a child. On April 18, 2021, my daughter Pia Massey passed away, with cause of death yet to be determined. This shock has turned the beautiful spring into a very sad season for our family.

 

I’m guessing most readers of this column already have had the experience of losing a beloved relative or best friend, a teacher or therapist. I feel like my 22-year-old daughter was a little of all these things. 

 

I first met Pia in Kerala, India, in December 1998, when she was a little over six months old. Her birth mother, Jasmine, spent her third trimester at a privately run orphanage and shelter providing housing and prenatal care for women with unplanned pregnancies. The organization worked with CARA, the Central Adoption Registry Agency, which is based in Delhi, and adoption agencies in India and overseas to find the right family for each relinquished child. There were cases wherein single mothers staying in this place kept their babies—very rare in India, but it made me glad that this also happened. My sister Rekha was with me during this trip, making it much easier for the novice mother to take care of a baby who was just learning to crawl. We were further aided by our relatives, the Parikh and Banerjee families in Kolkata, where we stayed while waiting for the immigration process to complete.




 

When I carried Pia into the United States, she was almost 9 months old. My husband Tony was relieved and elated to meet her after the months of waiting. He’d stocked our freezer with microwaveable servings he'd made of dal, the Indian lentil dish she already knew.

 

Pia was a lively, verbal toddler, at which time we adopted our second child, her brother Neel, three years younger, and from the same place in Kerala. Pia did kindergarten through the first half of second grade in Baltimore. Then we all moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota for six years, where she finished elementary school and started middle school. In 2013, Pia returned to Baltimore, and graduated from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a public high school with a focus on math and science.









 

Beginning at the age of ten, Pia did volunteer work with babies at her orphanage when we returned to visit twice—her second visit was at age sixteen. During Pia’s high school years, she volunteered with children at Camp St. Vincent in East Baltimore and Stony Run Friends’ First Day School. Pia studied at Towson University and Montgomery College, with a special interest in psychology and criminal justice. She worked for a year as a phlebotomist with the Pennsylvania Red Cross, a job she enjoyed very much. 

 





As she grew older, anxiety and depression surfaced, and Pia valiantly went through outpatient and inpatient treatment. For a lot of her life, she felt well and made progress. Other times she would just say, “Mom, I’m struggling,” and those simple words were meant to keep from from asking more. She sometimes said that her goal was to work as a counselor assisting youth suffering similar difficulties, and she earned strong grades and support from her college professors. 

 

Pia made friends easily, worked for social justice, and she often gave her last dollar to homeless people she encountered. Pia was loving and expressive of her feelings toward our family and the extended family in Louisiana and Minnesota. She loved dogs, driving cars, sharing funny videos, reading suspense novels, and cooking seafood dishes.

 




The world lost so much when Pia left it, and I will never forget her passion to help at-risk young women. I am donating in Pia's name to several nonprofits she didn't know about, but would have cheered.  One group in Maryland is named GEM (Girls Empowerment Mission), which mentors bright girls from economically deprived backgrounds through their high school years and into college. The other charity is ApneAap in India, a group that’s made huge progress reducing prostitution permanently and helping the children of prostitutes get education and housing away from red light districts. Currently they are providing meals during India’s Covid surge to these high-risk families.

 

It was hard to write this column, and I wept with every paragraph. Twenty-two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined my mother-daughter journey would culminate in such great loss. Yet I’d never want to have missed the gift of trying and tremendous years with my beloved Pia.




32 comments:

  1. Sujata, words are so inadequate and sorrow is so deeply personal. Thank you for sharing this hard, hard, post with us. My saddest condolences for your devastating loss. Michael.

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    1. Many thanks, Michael. I'm glad you got to meet Pia in Baltimore. Your visit made a big impression on both my children.

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  2. Dear Sujata. Deepest condolences to you and your family. Thank you for this glimpse of Pia. I hold you in my heart.

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  3. A beautiful post at the toughest of times. Thank you for sharing Sujata. All our aroha (love).

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  4. Michael said what I was thinking. Words are entirely inadequate. I'm so sorry for you and your family.

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  5. Oh, Sujata, I can't even imagine your loss. What a wonderful young woman. Sending you and your family sympathy and love at this very sad time.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Janet, and for being a supportive part of my life for so many years.

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  6. A heartbreaking loss. My deepest sympathies to you, Tony, and Neel.

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  7. Your post brought tears to my eyes, feeling your pain through the words you wrote. There must be days when you don't believe Pia has gone. So young.

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  8. No tears can console a parent for loosing a loved child. This i severy parent's worst nightmare. May you have the strength to bear this. RIP

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  9. No tears can console a parent for loosing a loved child. This i severy parent's worst nightmare. May you have the strength to bear this. RIP

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    1. I appreciate this. I am very grateful to have a son left to care for.

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  10. Our deepest sympathy to the family. Sujata, words cannot express the sorrow that you and family are going through. I love your openness on showing that life is not all well but there are ups and downs, I am so sorry for your loss.

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    1. Yes, thank you for recognizing that there is risk in sharing pain. There has been a lot of death this year, unexpected, for many families.

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  11. Dearest Sujata, Through tears, Barbara and I send you our love. This is every parent's worst nightmare. May Pia's memory be a blessing to all for whom she cared so deeply.

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  12. I am so very sorry for your loss. Be kind to yourself. I will remember you and your family. Sending healing energy.

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    1. good idea, Lori. I am making my days a lot simpler.

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  13. I'm so sorry, Sujata. I can't imagine what you're going through. That was a lovely remembrance of your daughter. She clearly brought light to you and all those around her. May her memory be a blessing to you and your family.

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    1. Barb, she was with us at many SinC chesssie events over the years. She loved the mystery women. I especially remember a couple of our senior members being very kind to her and Neel. She had a wonderful childhood.

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  14. What a beautiful journey of love and connection!!

    Piya left her mark through the way she lived. A reminder to each of us to not take life lightly, to live fully and to reduce the suffering of others.
    Thank you Sujata for opening your heart and being so vulnerable in sharing Piya’s story.

    Sending you and Tony and Neel and your family much love.

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  15. Oh, Sujata, I wept while reading this. I’ve known Pia since you first brought her home—watching her blossom over the years into a beautiful, caring young woman. My heart is breaking for you, Tony and Neel.

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  16. How incredibly sad and tragic this is. Sympathy to you and your family.

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  17. I am so sorry to hear about Pia. She was such a wonder little girl when I met her as school. She was always bubbly and eager to help. My heart is with you and your family.

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  18. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful and beloved Pia. I did not know her well as a beautiful young adult, but remember her well as a cherished child. Deepest sympathy to you and Tony and Neel on such a huge and hard loss.

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  19. Gary emailed to let me know about Pia. I am heartbroken to hear of your loss. I met Pai when she was still a child. Such a beautiful girl full of potential. Thanks for sharing her story. It sounds like she grew into a remarkable, caring young women. I feel for your sorrow and for Tony and Neel's. You wrote a wonderful tribune to Pai. Sending lots of love. Let me know if I can support you in any way.

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  20. Sujata,
    Our family is saddened to hear about Pia’s passing. I never had the opportunity to meet your daughter but she sounds like she was a wonderful young woman with a very kind heart. We are sending warmth and condolences to you, Tony and Neel.

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