Two deaths….Two Journeys!
Two deaths 24 years apart, almost to the day, of my parents…
Two journeys— One—-In the physical realm, travelling twice to be at the side of my parents, to walk the final few steps on their last journeys on earth.
The second, a more profounder, inner journey. Can the deaths of our loved ones teach us anything about ourselves? Death, a subject most of us either avoid or fear, but exalted beings like the Dalai Lama consider a natural process. Can we attain the level of understanding of the Dalai Lama. Is it possible for us ordinary beings to reach the level of enlightenment of a Dalai Lama. How does one become strong enough to take it in ones strides as a matter of course? Its a long and arduous journey, but if we believe in our own “Ruh”,”Inner Light”, “Atman”, “Buddha Nature” or “Christ Consciousness”, it is worth treading the path to realization and enlightenment.
If death is a natural process why does it cause such intense emotional pain? Why do we close our eyes when we have intense pain, physical or emotional?
If only we can keep our inner eye open despite our reaction to close our outer eyes and look closely at our thoughts, feelings and emotions that arise from the death of our loved ones, the very grief and pain we feel can teach us something about us and our relationships with others. It’s this inner journey to find “Home”, the inner peace and serenity that is harder.
Casting back my minds eye to 24 years ago, trying to recollect the thoughts, emotions and feelings of that first journey, brushing aside the cobwebs and dust under which I had buried them, trying to escape the reality and lead a normal life. Only scraps of memories resurface. Travelling with eager anticipation to a long awaited wedding, oblivious to the suffering of my dad, who I was aware was in hospital, fighting to stay alive, perhaps to be part of my happiness. How in our self absorption we ignore the obvious! A few alarms ringing in my mind on landing at the small airport and not being met by the entire clan, which was the norm. The small talk of the few relatives who had come to get me, irritating me. Finally arrived to a mourning house, my dad having departed on his own journey to the nether world a day before. If only my request to travel a day earlier was not declined by the authorities in Saudi Arabia. Anger, guilt and sense of utter dejection.
Mum was devastated. It is not easy to let go of a decades long relationship, which I felt was very close not withstanding the arguments and altercations which I had witnessed.
Marriage, under such circumstances? But does life stop or does it go on?
Anger at the unfairness of it all, at my dad for departing at such an inopportune time, God for playing dice with his life and my plans. Feelings of guilt at the anger. A turmoil of emotions, a larger than life dilemma!
Counselled by the patriarch of the family, my dad’s elder brother, a father figure to both my father and my mother; she was brought up by him and his wife(her elder sister). Grieving should be subdued and we have to accept Allah’s will. How we interpret religion to suit our thinking and to meet our own needs! Where is the logic in the convoluted argument that if the wedding did not go ahead, it would tarnish the name of my bride to be? And what did I really want? To grieve properly or accept?
Capitulating- To my own selfish desires or to the demands of culture and religion? I went through the motions. Normally weddings are joyous occasions. Some ceremonies, perhaps designed to break the barriers and boundaries between the two families, as marriages in India are not just between two individuals but two families. One particular ceremony on the eve of the main wedding day comes to mind. The bridegroom, while avoiding raps on his knuckles from slender sticks covered with flowers, wielded by his future sisters-in-law, has to break a pie and find a coin hidden in it. The tussle that ensues can be a lot of fun, but was it for me? My heart was not in it. A fear, an apprehension that having agreed to go ahead with the wedding and betrayed my Dad’s memory and trampled on my Mum’s emotions, how could I be joyous and happy. The days that followed were a medley of sorrow and joy. Soon after two births in the family. More happiness, Life’s Roller Coaster goes on!
24 years riding on the roller coaster, peaks of joy, three kids of my own, troughs of misunderstandings and arguments. Did the circumstances of our wedding impact our later relationship or were the troughs an outcome of our own inadequacies? We evolve with time and the experiences we go through. Becoming aware of our feelings, thoughts and emotions, owning up what is “Inside” is the only way we can evolve.
24 years and 4 days, once again on a plane. Yet another journey in the physical realm, to get a last glimpse of my dead mum’s face, to walk a few steps, to carry her, like she had carried me many times, years ago. A different person with different belief’s. Our beliefs are dynamic- an open mind, a non-judgmental attitude and a willingness to change is the only requisite.
If the first death was unexpected, untimely and unfair and the second half expected, at a ripe old age. Yet the loss was real and the grief was palpable. After all it was my mum who had birthed me, nourished me with her blood and milk and nurtured me and made me what I am today, that had passed away. Age and a quest to seek peace and find answers to the problems of life had taken me on different paths. Questioning some of my previous belief’s, discarding some and accepting answers that resonated with my own soul. What is religion? Why do we need a god? Is there a life after death?
Nine and half hours confined in a metal can 35,000 feet above Terra firma is a long time for contemplation and more so when there is sadness. Sleep was miles away from my eyes, even though I had hardly slept the previous night. Despite trying to meditate my mind was in a turmoil, buffeted by thoughts and fears. At such times most of us think of god! The marvels of technology, listening to the Quran, some soothing music and meditating. The passages of Quran from the 30th chapter, in Sayyid Qutb’s words” Wake up! Look around you! Think! Reflect! There is god! There is planning, trial, liability, reckoning, reward, severe punishment and lasting bliss!” I needed a balm for my raw, gaping and bleeding wounds, not exhortations and warnings. Not a reminder of the reckoning at the end of life and the torture of hell! When grieving do we really want to be reminded about the judgement day and the torture of hell? These exhortations to do good deeds in this life for a reward of eternal life in the hereafter maybe better at other times but not when your heart is squeezed by the wet hand of grief. So by meditating, letting the clouds of thoughts pass by without judging them, listening to the inner silence which are the Sufi’s way, I finally was able to get a little bit of peace.
On arrival, a spanking new and bright airport, the early morning drive home, and the arrival home were less dramatic than the previous occasion. Mum lying inside a cool box, serene and peaceful in her eternal sleep. This loss accepted more easily, perhaps because of the circumstances of her death. I had visited her only three months earlier and had a premonition that she would not be with us for much longer. She seems to have come to terms with death after seeing me.
Is there life after death?
The belief that life ends with death is rather limiting . What can we make of the various near death experiences? The singular similarity of these experiences of a being of light give hope to many. The concepts of heaven and hell, karma and rebirth are all human attempts to fathom the unfathomable. Even if as the atheists contend, we do not need a God to give us moral and ethical values, or we accept that we don’t need a designer to create the universe and it is all a culmination of random events, is it not a beautiful concept that there is a life after death. It is a comforting belief, a light at the end of the tunnel. A solace to an aching heart and a soothing of the jangled nerves of someone who has lost a dear one!
So both parents gone to the other realm. I am certain that their souls will meet as they are but parts of the same” One Soul” as we all are!
Life does not stop when we lose our beloveds, it goes on and it is a roller coaster. With all the troubles and tribulations we seek to evolve into human beings, don’t we?
Guilt, anger and turmoil of the first loss repressed and buried in the depths of the psyche. Years of struggle, periods of depression later, did the realization dawn that only conscious awareness of our thoughts and feelings and an examination of their causes is the only way to evolve, to accept loss and move on.
Death———-4 days——Marriage——2 Days——Death.
Life is the greatest teacher, especially the pain that wrings the heart and shatters it into a thousand pieces and each piece reflecting a part of our truth. Teaches us the duality of this dimension- The profane and the profound, the low and high, the mundane and the spiritual and the bitter with the sweet.
Sweet tastes even sweeter after tasting the bitter, try it for yourself if you wish. Would life be the same without the sweet and the bitter, without the highs and the lows?
We can only find peace when we can accept both these aspects as one. Then we would have evolved into “humane beings”!