My favourite read

Of all the beautiful reads I had, the one that I could not get over was Rachael Lippincott’s five feet apart. I remember waking up for hours in the middle of the night, checking up my tab and having the long read. Intriguing, emotional, heart-wrenching and absorbing is how I define my favourite book.

Picture Credit : Google

The story of the Stella Grant and Will Newman still makes my heart flutter. It dealt with Abby’s and Poe’s death, how the two affected Stella’s life and Will left her amidst this giving her a new life. The drug trial involved with cystic fibrosis patients having B.Cepacica was a whole new concept that gives us a sense of hope and the author wishes it too that one day such a treatment be found.

Having five feet apart in my collection is what that made me ponder about the life, the death, the love and the perseverance. It’s written with a heart that believes true love exists even in the most unrealistic circumstances. Don’t know where to start but this book has so much to say and what not to teach. A careful read of this book taught me that the death is inevitable to all and what we are supposed to do is to live in the moment and make the best use of it. When on medications what one must not lack is perseverance and the faith. It proves that love is the ultimate expression of the will to live. And children’s love is what binds the parents together when the terminal illness evokes in. Where there’s a love, there’s a sacrifice. It values the human touch as the premium ease of all sufferings. The protagonist of the story, Stella shows that girls know coding too. It shows how the transgenders share the equal rights and how the socialisation and technology has made living easy, causing awareness and helping people win the battle over a terminal illness such as that of cystic fibrosis. And above all, what this book had for me is one more lesson teaching never to take your health for granted.

EXPECTED OR UNEXPECTED, OUR TIMES ARE IN HIS HANDS

I was four years old when I first encountered death in the family. It was my grandfather (my father’s dad) who faced death in 1979. The funeral was already done when my parent’s reached home with me in their arms. I had no understanding of how it feels to lose someone you love, at that time of my life.

But it was when my granddad (mother’s father) passed away unexpectedly within the three days of his sickness it felt quite hard and deep in my heart. I was a witness of his falling off his bed till his life going off his body. I was close to him and his contribution and investment in my life were huge. He was instrumental to bring me up with love, care and good health. He died of heatstroke in 1998 and it was very pathetic because one afternoon he fell down from his bed and never opened his eyes till he passed away after three days. We really were broken in the family of seeing a righteous man dying so unexpectedly but as the Psalmist testifies about God, “My times are in your hands”, we know, we had no control over that particular time of our lives.

Next, it was when my Badima, passed away when her sugar shot up so high that she had a massive stroke. It was so shocking and unexpected and was so heartbreaking. She was the soberest lady in the entire world who never even reprimands in the softest way ever. It was truly very difficult to pass through those days with lots of Why questions in our minds but at the end of the day we all knew and remember the same Bible verse as the Psalmist recites, “My times are in your hands”.

I still remember that morning when I had a lot of hope that he will bounce back and I will hear the good news that he is doing better, but God had different plans for him, for his parents and for all of us. This was the worst death in our family that literally dried all the joys from our lives for a few months.

It was at 3:30 am in the morning on 28th January 2011, when my Mom called me. I was shocked to see her number flashing on my cell at that hour of the night. I answered her call in fear and she told me crying, “Danny is no more…”

On 25th Jan 2011, my 21-year-old cousin met with an accident. His bike slipped and he went under a running bus. The back wheel of the bus ran over his hip. He was waiting for help for almost an hour on the road in that condition. When he was being carried to the hospital by his friends and other people, he was searching for his father before becoming unconscious.

Danny was such a wonderful boy. He used to play the guitar in his church. He was an ever-smiling guy and was very helpful, caring and adorable. He was a dog lover. He loved them like anything. I can’t believe or imagine till now that he is no more with us.

How does one cope with the loss of someone you had expected to live longer?” When I was reading Pradita’s article and came across this question that she posed, I remembered my baby brother who is not with us anymore. The experience was horrific for all of us and we took months to come out of the trance we were in. Whenever we used to meet, it was not a smile but tears became a common medium of greeting each other between us for months. We used to weep remembering him but used to keep consoling and encouraging each other. We used to read the words of comforts from the Bible and pray for each other to cope with the pain we were experiencing after Danny’s sudden death. Even after 10 years, we all feel that sorrow deep down our hearts even when we know and understand that our times are in His hands.

Recently, I lost my dad, in the horrific year of 2020, though not in Covid but he suffered a massive heart attack. It was my parent’s anniversary yesterday and my mother expressed while I was talking to her, “he never let anyone to serve him a bit”. I still could not believe that when I will return home I won’t find him beside me on the dining table but when he died, my heart was in so much peace knowing that, my father is safe and secure as his times were in His hands.

I have been going through a lot of pain and suffering since my birth and have experienced many more deaths in the family that had saddened my heart momentarily, whether for a shorter or longer time but all I have learnt to cope with death in the family by knowing, all our times are in His hands.

Stay Blessed!

DEATH: THE EXPECTED INTRUDER IN THE PATHWAY OF LIFE

Between transience and intransience is a deep river that all must wade through. There is no bridge. There is no parachute. None can lend a helping hand. Each to his own respite! There is no other way into the intransience. Most importantly, there is no choice to refuse to wade across the river. Clinging to the transient doesn’t help. Denial of the intransience is self-delusional. The river has to be crossed over!

There is fear of stepping into the river. The depth is unknown. But, there is no option of turning back either. There is no trail behind.

This is precisely the imagery of ‘death’.

Would you ever leave a newborn in the banks of a river knowing that the river waters would soon invade the banks and take along all that is there along the bank? Or for that matter, would you ever leave your parents or friends or spouse or any of your loved ones or even an acquaintance in such a place? Given a choice, most people wouldn’t.

But the thing with death is that, it offers no choice. The magic potions of immortality are best enjoyed in the pages of mythology and then left at that, without expecting precious vials of such potions to mysteriously land up beside the bedside of the blessed. Death is inevitable!

Death is an expected intruder in the pathway of life – ‘expected’ because we know it would come, ‘intruder’ because we don’t know when it would sneak in and put an end to life.

When we talk of being prepared or unprepared to meet death, we mostly think of the emotions, finances and social consequences as loved ones left behind to cope with the loss. We mostly think of the life that could have lived a few more years or of a life that lived to the fullest. We write flattering obituaries and speak fondly at memorials. We accord utmost respect to the departed soul and avoid remarking negatively during solemn times as these.

We often attempt to push death as far as we can within our means – by having the right lifestyle and avoiding known dangers. Modern medicine has enhanced life expectancy hugely. Knowing the inevitability of death, we strive to live life to the fullest potential. However, having strived well, we still have to wade through the deep waters of death.

Scary, isn’t it?

No matter what is the belief system of cultures across the world regarding ‘after death what?’none can afford to disprove death itself.

Death carries with it the ghastly fear of the unknown.

Parents often worry when their children go out on their own. But, when they know that the child is not alone, when then they know where exactly the child has gone, they feel assured, though their hearts (quite understandably) continue to flutter till the child reaches back home.

The fear, anxiety and grief accompanied with death is largely because of the lone journey into an unknown realm – none can accompany, the destination is uncertain.

But, what if the destination is known?

What if there is someone to lead the way?

Is death, a journey – or the end of all journeys?

Is there a destination involved, at all?

Thoughts and philosophies from centuries of old provide explanations for death. Hence, beliefs about life and death are relatively culture-specific and variant.

If life is perceived to be only physical, death would be the end of all journeys. Nothing beyond.

However, life does not merely comprise of the body – but is the union of the body, spirit and soul. We take care of our body, obey traffic rules and steer our vehicles in the chartered path so that our bodies don’t dash against anything or anybody and we don’t end up getting hurt. But, how careful are we about steering our souls and spirits in the right way, so that they are not hurt?

The question might sound a bit uncanny!

Especially because, it is widely believed that death puts an end to all hurts and pains. Does it really?

Death puts an end to physical pain. There is no doubt about it. None would dispute it, because it is visible and cognizable. In fact, we often heave sighs of relief when people in pain without a cure, pass away!

But, what about the soul and spirit?

We often wish peace for the departed soul. Will the departed souls be at peace simply because we wish so? Are those souls in utter disquiet, for whom no one wishes peace?

We also hear people wishing happiness for the departed souls wherever they may be. Would the souls be happy if we wish thus, or they would be unhappy if we don’t?

What can you and I do in preparation to transition into death?

  • First, believe that death is an intruder. It seldom comes announced. And so, preparation is essential to meet this intruder.
  • Second, believe that life is more than just the body. After death, the body ceases to be. But, the spirit doesn’t cease. There is an endless eternity for each of us to face.
  • Third, the preparation has to do more with self than others. We do need to have our house and finances in order well before dying. But, we also need to array our own souls well.
  • Fourth, we need to be prepared to face the Judge of all creation regardless of our belief systems while on earth.
  • Fifth, we need to acknowledge and repent for our sins while on earth. A peaceful death doesn’t ensure a peaceful eternity. Regardless of a turbulent or a peaceful death, we can be at peace in eternity only if we are forgiven.

I often remind myself of the popular statement – ‘Live each day as if it is your last’. To live in love and amity with fellowmen, to live in repentance of sin, to live with the assurance of being forgiven by God, to live in the joy of living, to live with the assured hope of a glorious eternity – is a worthwhile preparation for death.

Would such a preparation, offer any consolation to the loss of a precious one? Not always.

In his book ‘A Grief Observed’, C.S. Lewis writes about the loss of his wife of four years. In fact, he has converted his journal of those grief-stricken days into the book. He shares of his struggles, the memories, the longing to have his wife by his side again, remembering the nitty-gritty of their brief time together, trying to reason with God and then coming to a resigned acceptance of reality. It is a book I purchased when I was searching to gift such a book to a dear friend who had lost her younger sister at child-birth after giving birth to twin daughters.

There were too many questions with the family? The young man who dreamt of a happy family, was now broken – having lost his wife and a mounting task before him to raise two children single-handedly. Knowing that his wife led a life of love and preparation for eternity, provided no immediate solution to his woes.

There can be no one-size-fits all type of solution to deal with death. Some of us learn to cope, some repress the loss down the deep recesses of the mind while some never cope with the loss of their loved ones at all. A shoulder to cry, a hand to wipe away tears, ears to hear repeated narration of memories – make losses bearable.

DEATH – A ‘STEPPINGSTONE’ TO THE BETTER?

While I’m sure everyone out here associates death with a negative emotion – because of what we’ve been told by the generations gone by and of of course seen as well – how people react to death – with tears, sadness and morose.

But what if I told you;

Death could also be – well, not a happy emotion – but a transitional phase that is necessary – simply because, along with all the sadness that death brings with it, it more importantly comes with a realization, a different kind of responsibility and a whole new window to a life above and beyond…. the concerned person (who has passed on) has now become your pillar on which you build/strengthen and base your life principles on.

Does that sound like a bad thing?

Stairway to heaven

No one can take away the associations, memories or the learnings from people who have passed on… their wisdom/knowledge will always be in-valuable – especially if they are our close family members. But when we hold on, for too long – that’s where the situation of a transition may take much longer than it should.

Have you lost someone who has been very close to you?

Many of us will have a ‘Yes’ answer to that question.

Well, I haven’t, at least not as yet: the people who are closest to me are still around, and I couldn’t be blessed more for the same. I know it will happen someday, and whether I’d be prepared for that day – is anyone’s guess.

While some of my friends mock me saying –

“you talk about death… like you know it. You don’t know it unless you go through it.”

And while I don’t mind their words, as harsh as it sounds – maybe they are right, but I do also have my own thoughts on the subject too.

Death according to me – is an eventuality, we all WILL get there eventually – so why do we give it so much importance anyways?

A lot of people have died around – neighbours, friends, acquaintances etc, but none of who I had any special relation with, so it could be that this post, may turn out just the way I’d want it to – not emotional, but a very practical take – addressing the topic at hand.

Surprisingly, I would happen to know more about death and talk about it, to otherwise in comparison to any another subject. However, my family members do not approve-more so my dad. He thinks, the mere mention of the word ‘death’ is of a person being in a negative state of mind. The old Generation, I tell you!!

It is in times like these, when the Indian head movement can actually be put to good use, not necessarily in agreement but.. you know… “go ahead, I am listening till you finish what you have to say.

Coming to the actual person who has passed on (died), we clearly do not know what lies ahead in that journey, but what we do know is – it is supposedly the better life on the other side, which strangely reminds me of a Netflix show I watched, by the name of ‘The Good Place’ – now that was one show, I could resonate with totally, not because I understood the whole dynamics of life before and after death, but just that the show spoke aloud about…. well, I’m not going to tell you the story, you will just have to go and watch it yourself. You’d surely love it – that’s a guarantee.

Living life is all about the process, and the one chance we get at living it – if we do a good enough job, the eventuality, that is Death, need not necessarily stand for sadness, it can otherwise be a Celebration a celebration of leading a fulfilled life, a life full of happiness, satisfaction and joy – and if we think deeper, isn’t that what we all strive for in our everyday life?

Death is the END, but then again the end doesn’t happen without a grand entry and the dance in-between. Do all that well and the rest will look after itself.

To Death!… and the life beyond it.

WHY SO SOON?

There have been two deaths so far that have moved me deeply.

The first was the death of my brother’s best friend, and the second was the death of a stranger. In both cases, the deceased died young. I’ve lost family too who I loved dearly, grieved for as well. Every loss was monumental in its own way, but these two people, though they weren’t family, hurt me the most because it seemed unfair that one should die so young. I’m aware that the statement sounds foolish, hurtful even. How can anyone’s death mean more or less. The loss of life is great anyhow, in every case. But the ones who lose the most are the ones who are left behind. And the way I see it, behind these two deaths are grieving families who still wonder – why so soon?

I once read somewhere the heaviest coffins are the smallest ones, and I couldn’t agree more. Those coffins, the bodies that are cremated on the smallest of pyres, they carry the unseen weight of years that were to come, of opportunities lost too soon, of memories robbed before they were made.

I still remember that day in the hospital where I was soon to be admitted for the birth of my daughter. I was waiting near the NICU for a check-up. I remember wondering, “Why are there so many people thronging its doors? It’s a NICU; its unsafe for the babies in there.” The doors slid open and an aged, gaunt man came out with a bundle wrapped in white cloth in his hands. The throng followed him, all of them crying and yet there wasn’t one sound in that hospital corridor but dead silence. No hysterical sobbing, no wailing, no keening. Just dead silence. People stopped doing what they were doing. Every head was bent low and everyone moved aside to let the grieving family go to the exit.

I averted my eyes. I couldn’t bear to look at that bundle, and the one feeling that permeated was shame. I felt ashamed sitting there because I had hope from my swollen belly, while that baby’s mother cried over the loss of her own. What dreams would she have made, what hopes she must have had from the birth of her child! All snatched away within hours from her. I couldn’t imagine then how heavy a load that family carried in that bundle, just as I couldn’t imagine the weight of my brother’s friend’s loss for his family.  

He was all of fifteen or sixteen – a good student, a dutiful son and a loving big brother. My brother and he were inseparable. We were also good neighbours which meant he was always around. He was always very respectful toward me and I would joke with my brother that he was the only sensible one in his gang of friends. When news first came of his sudden sickness, I didn’t pay much regard. I knew he could kick it off. He was so young! One doesn’t expect someone so young to be in grave danger. But he was gone within days of his hospitalization because of Meningitis. Even when they brought him home, he was covered from head to toe in gauze because his skin was covered in rashes and his parents couldn’t bear to see him that way. I have never cried so much for someone who wasn’t family as I did that day. The only thing that went around in my head was – but he was so young!

His mother is still excellent friends with my family. A few weeks back, when I called her to congratulate her on her daughter’s wedding, she still teared up saying, “How happy he would have been to see her married.” He would have indeed, but no one will ever know, because he went away too soon. He will never know what it’s like to graduate from college, to get his first pay check, to fall in love, to make a family. Everything that we seem to take for granted in life, seems amplified manifold from his perspective because he will never get to experience these things.

I know a few other people who lost husbands who were fathers to young children, my father-in-law being one such unfortunate person; of mothers who had just given birth; of a college senior who had a tumor in his brain and couldn’t survive the chemo; of a classmate who was raped and left to die. In all of these cases I have felt that life was grossly unfair to them and to their families. Everyone expects to die someday, but none prepare themselves when they are young. 

I am not saying that the death of the elderly is any less significant. But most people live full lives before they go into the final sleep. Both my grandmothers suffered for years before death took mercy on them. I grieved heavily for both of them, but it was a relief for us to see them go because we knew they had lived well and wanted to die. Most families can at least take succour in the fact that their dear one lived a complete life. What succour do the families of these young ones have? Do they ever stop grieving for all those times they could have had memories with their children, but can’t? Do they ever stop grieving at all?

I didn’t have to cope from these two deaths because they weren’t personal and I don’t even want to be in a similar position. If these unfortunate families have come to terms with their losses, I suspect only time helped them dull the pain. I can’t see how anything else could have helped, save resurrection of their deceased loved ones.

How does one cope with the loss of someone you had expected to live longer?

You occupy yourself with other things. You focus on a future that you still have even if they don’t, because you owe it to yourself and to them to keep living. You find strength in yourself and in the family you shared with the deceased. You learn to value happiness more now that you have known so much sorrow. You make new connections and new memories. You keep going forward so you don’t have to look back. But most of all, you just learn to let the bitterness go because what else can you do? It is unjust, but it is what it is.

I leave you with this quote that sums up all of what I’ve been trying to say through this post –

Somethings cannot be fixed; they can only be carried.

Megan Devine.

DEATH – THE HARSH REALITY OF LIFE

We all are very well aware of the fact that whosoever comes onto the earth has to leave also. Yet, we mourn and cry over the loss of our loved ones, the loss that is irreparable. It’s a strange process that God has made. Soon after the birth, a person makes so many connections, develops love and affection and when the time comes, the invisible cord is just snapped, leaving behind only memories.

A few years back I lost my cousin brother. His death was a shock for all of us. But, for me, it was an eyeopener, as if trying to reiterate the fact that death can arrive at any time. I was there for the funeral with my cousin Prabhjot and we felt sorry for our older generation who watched the dead body on a pyre, crying helplessly. It was the first time in my life that I witnessed all the last rituals being performed, right in front of me. I stood there, remembering my cousin brother’s laughter, the way he used to tease me, helping me out of the way and all the good and bad times we shared as a family. The next day, as a ritual, we had to go to the funeral site again for phool chugna, i.e., collecting the last remains of the body- bones and teeth. Since there was no one else to accompany our fathers, Prabhjot and I went with them. I couldn’t stop my tears from falling down as I searched the ‘phool’ from the ashes. The bone in my hand could have been his finger that held me when I was little. The tooth that I found reminded me of his smile. The huge body who once guarded me was down there, turned into ashes. For a weak-hearted girl like me, that moment was overwhelming, but it suddenly filled me with strength, making me realize that my cousin was near me and he would feel bad to see us all cry. So, now, whenever I miss him, I talk to him in my heart.

As they say-

Those we love don’t go away

they walk beside us every day,

unseen, unheard,

but always near,

still loved, still missed,

and very dear”

DIFFERENT STAGES OF GRIEF

Blog - The Death Of The Headphone Jack: Seven Stages Of Grief

It’s been one full year since Reena lost her younger brother in a bike accident. And today as she sits down with her cup of coffee, she is bombarded with the memories of that unfortunate day. The crying, the grief, the stress, the blood, the dead body, the frantic calls, the guilt, the police case, the hospital, the crematorium and so much more that she wishes nobody had to ever experience. 

Nothing has been more painful for her than to see his brother’s body lay their lifeless. The moment she heard the news from a stranger calling from her brother’s phone – she was devastated. She wished and prayed that this was some sort of a misunderstanding or horrible prank but when she reached the accident spot – she immediately identified the bike and then the helmet, it was indeed her brother’s. Then she saw the clothes smothered in blood, she identified the Levis Jeans and the UCB tee that was supposed to be blue but now was entirely red. And she screamed her most painful scream when her eyes met the face. 

Her eyes welled up and she shut them close as she remembered the moment. She shut her eyes so tight in an attempt to shut the pain but that never happens. Even after a year, the pain seems to be so deep – it is like being killed a million times. She kept her cup down and moved towards the bookshelf. Picked up the book called “Stages of grief”. She had read it so many times in the last one year. She opened the first page and it said “May this give you the strength. Love Sujata”. This book made her aware of 7 different stages of grief which she now knew by heart. But she had no clue which stages she was in now. It sounded quite easy to understand these stages in the context of somebody else. But when the grief is your own, it is almost impossible to know if you are in the Depression stage or Pain and Guilt stage. 

Reena was slowly getting aware that she was past the stage of “Shock and Denial”. She had spent weeks after the funeral believing that all this was just a bad dream and that if she just calls him, he will be right there. She sent countless messages to him on WhatsApp, it always had just one black tick. She left many messages on his Facebook profile (which was now declared as a Memorialized account) and those were only responded to by others who shared her grief. She would keep calling his number over and over again even though she had witnessed his lifeless body being burnt. 

Reena had also very clearly experienced the stage of “Anger and Bargaining”. Her brother was going to meet his girlfriend Kritika when he was hit by a truck. Reena blamed Kritika for months and wondered if there was some way to stop him from being on road at that time. Multiple “what if” and “if only” statements kept crossing her mind. She completely stopped communicating with Kritika even though they had been good friends earlier only because she held her responsible for what happened.

“What if I had called him that day?” 

“This wouldn’t have happened, if I would have agreed to go out with him and Kritika for the movie” 

“What if he would have taken that job in Kolkata, maybe he would still be alive.”

These hypothetical scenarios kept doing the rounds in her head. 

There were days when Reena felt really at peace. She would just close her eyes and accept that her brother was gone and even though this is one of the worst things that have happened to her – it has indeed happened. And she needs to live with this forever. She would remember all the good times that she had with her brother and believe that he is always around no matter what. This was the stage of “Acceptance and Hope”.

Then some days the stage of “Depression” would come lashing back at her. She would stay silent mostly, not thinking anything. Just sitting at one place for hours together. After multiple rounds of this stage, she now knew that she needed help to get out of depression. Sujata was the only person she would call who always succeeded to bring her out of this abyss. “Look at your bright life. You are just 27, you have a promising career and an amazing set of parents. Your brother would have always wanted to see you happy and successful, don’t make him unhappy.”

Today Reena saw a new hope when she read an email from Sujata that made a lot of sense. The email said –

“Dear Reena,

I have new understanding of what death is and I would like to share it with you. Maybe it will help you. Imagine that a bunch of kids are playing with bubbles and they are competing with each other to make the largest bubble that can stay for the longest time. The moment they blow the bubbles, they all start screaming – see my bubble is going so up and so fast. Each bubble is holding some amount of air in it and once the bubble breaks there is no boundary around the air. Now no kid can identify his/her bubble. 

Our body on this planet is just like a bubble. Once this bubble breaks, we get mixed into The Creator and cannot identify with our worldly identity anymore. However, the human body is much more complex than a soap bubble. It has layers of existence. The physical body (blood and flesh) is the outermost layer of this bubble and this is what we identify with the most. Once this physical body is gone, there are other layers that are perceived in many different ways in different cultures. These layers continue to exist for as long as they are not ready to break. Once these layers break, the soul dissolves into The Creator. 

In case of sudden deaths, these inner layers might be strong and the essence of that person might still be lingering around for quite a few days. For people who died peacefully at an old age, the inner layers also break along with the physical body. Their souls can dissolve into The Creator within a couple of hours of death. 

Maybe your brother is still around you and taking care of you and maybe he is gone into The Creator only to be reborn into a fresh body from a womb. Either way, you must seek closure to what you feel for your brother. Do some meditation tonight. Try to feel his presence and if you don’t feel anything then just let him go because he needs to be liberated even from your thoughts. 

Love,

Sujata”

Reena cried hysterically when she read this. She wasn’t clear what she felt but it felt like somebody had lifted a huge weight from her shoulders. She meditated not just that night and every single night. It gave her peace and warmth and gradually she believed that she was ready to let go of him. This most probably is an “Upward turn” and she wouldn’t fall back into the “Depression” stage again.