As I stood by my father’s bedside feeling the faint touch of his frail hand on my left hand and trying to make him sip a few drops of water with the other, I could hear his heavy breathing break the silence of that dark room. As the first drop of water caressed his lips, there was silence. Breathing had stopped. He was gone.
It did not need a Doctor’s confirmation to know that he was no more residing in that body. Or that this was now a body and not my father, my Taji.
Death, while humans may have to face it suddenly and abruptly or after a prolonged illness, seems instant. It may have a different scientific or legal meaning, but to me the physical death was just that failure in the ability to take the next breath. One moment life exists. The next moment and death prevails.
Taji was gone and now that permanent void remains. Over the past I have seen many beloved ones gone. Relatives, friends and colleagues! Real people with whom I had spent time together and who filled my life with vivid memories which still play back in mind from time to time!
Some of them were dominating personalities in yesteryears. Some who showered me with their love and affection and some whom I feared or disliked for what they were doing to me or my family. Or what they stood for. Some who went suddenly while others who took many years to breadth their last after prolonged illness and pain!
Yes death is a reality and we all have to face the pain of missing our loved ones some time in life. Yet sometimes our bonds with people gone, rekindles a desire to be united again with them and makes us deeply sad when we realize that it is no longer possible.
Many a times I get up in the night looking at that bright smile on my father’s face when he did a ‘Thumps-up’ and informed me of my selection in IIT. But alas I see only the darkness of the night and cannot reach out to him and hug him.
At times I see a ten year old me singing the evening Sanskrit hymns with my grandmother, matching her word to word and trying to desperately raise my voice over hers to enable her to know that I know them all and can recite them better than her. As I open my eyes to see that bright sparkle in her eyes even at her defeat, I see the darkness of the still night and realize that there is no need to recite the hymns anymore. Or anyone left to beat at her own game!
I know very well that in the not so distant future, I will face the physical loss of many more relatives and friends as age is catching up with them and circle of life is drawing its end. Or they may face mine.
With every loss of relationship, someone just does not dies or fades away outside but something dies inside too. That part of life, those moments are dead and gone and will never return.
But I know of something far worse than the physical death and permanent loss- Death of a soul in a living body. Or the death of the spirit or the will live in a human body.
Like when my father’s or grandmother’s soul lived in deep slumber in their living bodies in various stages of dementia in the latter part of their lives. While their respective bodies were caged in the lonely four walls of their rooms, their souls were further chained in a body which was not letting them go.
Or like when even for physically healthy people, due to extraneous circumstances or those of their own creation, life seems to be over and there is nothing more to do or achieve. When there is no aim or reason to live. When you live not because you want to but because you have to!
When today is a repetition of yesterday and will again repeat tomorrow.
Like me perhaps you too may know of many people who live or have lived such barren lives.
Some fight and continue to fight every day and win and emerge as warriors and winners. Society cheers for them and makes them poster boys for others to follow.
Most accept their realities and make compromises with life and take what comes their way as their destiny.
And then there are a few, who cannot forget their past and die a hundred deaths everyday as they see no light at the end of the tunnel leading to depression and despair. Their souls live in cages which were built by life events but become more terrifying by their own surrender.
Gloomy, yes! But this too I have learnt is a reality of life. And yes I have outlived the age when I would judge what is right or wrong in the matters of human mind!
Death therefore I realized over time is not just the stoppage of breath, or heart or brain itself. That is just the physical form. It could come early for many who may carry their dead souls in living bodies for very many years of their lives.
To those in despair and finding themselves caught in a cul-de-sac or lacking the will or wits to fight, I totally understand your state as I too have been there and seen that death. It has taken tremendous efforts to try and start this after life and every day the fight continues. Perhaps I can share a few tools that I use to try and emerge out of the shadows.
If you face the loss of a loved one or an end of a relationship, befriend a new soul as this heart is capable of adding new compartments wherein love can be shared with new entrants. In the darkest of times when it was difficult to share pain with even immediate family members lest they are distressed further, I found my peace with other souls who reside in this world and developed deep bonds with them. As human relationships were difficult to make because of their being judgemental or holistic or even because of events like this current pandemic, I made friends with other life forms- cats, dogs, skunks, raccoons, skunks even neighborhood trees. Every day I get up and look forward to meet them and spend time with them while sharing the happiness and love which we bring to each other’s life.
If you find you have exhausted all reasons to live, then create one. Or many small ones on continuous basis! Find a cause. Don’t let the world pity you or you pity yourself by living in the past. We are all born infinite and can reinvent ourselves time and again and find something new to strive for.
It does not matter if we lose again. And again and again….. The definition of success by worldly norms is immaterial. It is your own satisfaction that you tried and will continue to try again that is important. There really is no end which justifies a purpose and the journey itself is a purpose.
Physical death- I do not give it much respect anymore. It came to many loved ones that I knew, will come to many more and will one day embrace my living body too. I am at total peace with myself and with this world and can leave any moment, smiling and laughing without any regrets. Yet I do not await it and will continue to embrace life and be creative for every living moment that comes my way. To hopefully the last breathe.
Mental death- Ha! I have defeated that. Many times over and know fully well how to dig for light beyond its darkness.
A simple thread, just one, is what we need to hang on to in difficult times. When times are difficult, I hope we all are able to weave one out of the resilience of this soul. Amen.
Posted in Times of India on 15th February 2021. Link below-