A Daughter’s Passing

This post originally appeared on Murder Is Everywhere.

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.

54 thoughts on “A Daughter’s Passing”

  1. Sujata,

    There are no words to express my sorrow at the news. Sending much love from all the Kelner.

  2. Sujata, I am so very sorry. Pia was a wonderful young woman who was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother. My condolences to you all.

  3. Dearest Sujata – I cannot express how very, very sorry I am. Pia was an adorable young girl when I first met her so many years ago. My deepest condolences and much love to you all.

  4. Sujata,
    My heart goes out to you and your family. Pia was clearly an extraordinary person and gave her all. She will be remembered by anyone whose life she touched. Whatever we can do, however we can help, let us know.

  5. Sujata,
    My heart goes out to you and your family for the loss of your beautiful daughter, Pia. Sending light and love.

  6. Oh Sujata, I’m so sorry to hear this tragic news. Comforting clouds of purple to you all.

  7. Sujata – I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I’m so sorry. Sending love to you and the family during this difficult time.

  8. Sujata, I am so terribly sorry for your loss. Sending love and prayers to you and your family and will keep all of you in my thoughts.

  9. Oh, Sujata. I’m so sorry. What a terrible loss for the world, as well as your family.

  10. Sujata, I’m so sorry for your and your family’s loss. I’m just so sorry. We will keep you all in our thoughts.

  11. My very deepest condolences, Sujata, to you and your family. May she rest in peace.

  12. A lovely tribute for a lovely young woman. Sujata, please know that we’re all thinking about you and holding you in our hearts.

  13. My deepest condolences on your loss. She sounds like a wonderful, inspirational light. I wish I’d known her. Praying for Pia, you and your family.

  14. My deepest sympathy, Sujata. I couldn’t get through this loving, heartbreaking piece without weeping. Pia sounds like a wonderful soul. My thoughts are with you. Prayers offered for all of you.

  15. My deepest sympathy to you and your family, Sujata. Sending our love. I am so sorry

  16. I can’t imagine the heartache, Sujata. I am so sorry for you loss and am holding you and your family in my heart.

  17. Pia sounds like a wonderful young woman who had tremendous empathy and a desire to alleviate suffering. I am so sorry she is gone, and so very sorry for your loss. Take care.

  18. Sujata, I’m so sorry. That was a beautiful tribute. All my love to you and your family.

  19. Dear Sujata,

    We knew each other slightly when we were young through our mutual family friends the Hershbells. I lost my own daughter Nora to cancer not quite two years ago. It sucks, it just does. Holding you and your family in my thoughts and heart.

  20. Sujata, I am so sorry to read this about your beloved Pia. I was along for that journey back when you adopted her and your joy was palpable when she arrived. It is a terrible loss, but I know she felt deeply loved by you.

    My deepest condolences,


  21. I’m so sorry, Sujata. You’re in my heart and in my prayers. I can’t imagine the pain you’re going through. Please know I’m with you.

  22. Sujata, know that Michael and I are thinking of you and your family at this difficult time. This is a beautiful tribute and Pia’s legacy will live long. I am so sad that she had to endure those mental struggles and hope that peace is with her now.

  23. Sujata,

    I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. Strength and peace to you all.

  24. My sincerest condolences to you and your family. Goga and I can not imagine the heartbreak and hold you close in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. Sujata, we are all thinking of you, and holding you and your family in our hearts. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  26. What a beautiful remembrance of Pia. I cannot imagine the strength it took to put down these words or how painful this time must be for your family. Sending big hugs and lots of love to you, Sujata.

  27. Sujata, the poem at the beginning of your tribute is lovely and I know it is a lovely way to think of her as being everywhere and always with you. No words can truly express how sorry I am for you and your family’s devastating loss. I will keep good thoughts for you all. Verena

  28. Sujata, what a lovely tribute to your beautiful daughter. It seems like only yesterday you were wheeling her around Malice Domestic in a stroller. Her beautiful soul is a loss to the world — and to your family. Hoping you find comfort in the good times.

  29. Dearest Sujata,

    My heart aches for you, Tony, and Neel. I remember when you brought Pia to Malice Domestic. She was a beautiful little girl and certainly became a beautiful young woman in every way. Please accept my sincer condolences.

  30. Sujata,
    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your daughter. It is very painful news.
    Love and hugs,
    Cathy Hodapp

  31. My heart breaks for you and your family. Your tribute is a beautiful testament to an extraordinary woman.

  32. Very sorry to hear of this terrible loss, Sujata. How incredibly sad and shocking. Liz and I are thinking of you, Tony and Neel.

  33. Dear Sujata, you may not remember me but I was friends with Carina – your Brazilian au pair – and I have met both Pia and Neel when they very young. I used to come quite often to your house and you and your family were always so welcoming. I remember many days dancing to Bombay Dreams soundtrack at your living room. Pia and Neel dancing freely and joyfully. I love these memories. I am deeply sorry for your loss and all my thoughts are with you all. Although is difficult thinking about how short Pia’s life was, reading your blog made me realize she also had quite a significant journey in this world of ours. She has always been a star… she is shining from where she is. I wish you all strength and serenity going forward, knowing you all are receiving love from all over the world. Beijos

  34. Mrs. Massey and family,

    I was heartbroken to hear about Pia, and my heart goes out to your family. I was blessed to have known her and to experience her beautiful soul. She shined brighter than anyone I knew. She will be missed by everyone she touched.

  35. Sujata, Tony, Neel,

    The poem says more than any other words I could add.
    Your tribute to Pia was beautiful and brave. She clearly radiated more light to this world during her short life. May you find light amidst your sorrows.
    Please know that you all are being held in love by our family.

    Meg and Brian

  36. Dear Sujata – So many sweet memories of dance class at Wizie’s house with our little crew of Pia, Mia, Maya, Kyra, Cara (so musical!) along with my daughter, Eleni and Wizie’s daughter, Janaea. We all sat upstairs and laughed and talked about everything under the sun related to parenting these amazing adopted girls. Those were magical days. Wizie even found some pictures, which I hear she has shared with you. I might also have some and will get them to you when I unearth them from an old Shutterfly album. We have thought of you often over the years when reminiscing about the old days. Eleni and I send you and your family much love. Our hearts are broken for you. May her memory be eternal. – Sue Manos

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