Death is a great equalizer on many levels. It is said that not everyone lives, yet all of us die. Then again, each one of us leads a different life – from posh to one of utter paucity, from illustrious to the one beset with several ills, from reverentially hailed to denouncedly hated and hounded. But in the end, we all die in more or less the same way – one moment we are breathing and the next moment, life has left us leaving behind a still carcass robbed of all identity – of caste, creed, title, power or wealth.
In my case, Death has served as a Turning Point at several junctures of my life. Like the Age rings on trees, it has left behind age lines that define when I reached not physiological but mental puberty, the point when I was coming of age in my womanness, the telling sign when I had to be the weight-bearing support to myself and the extended family. It has sordidly marked the point in motherhood when I was to be losing my all – from a stable, ambitious mind to matters of significance, from my will to wisdom, from an untiring zeal to unputdownable zest; and entering my personal ice age to, from here on, toss and turn on a bed of frozen tears.
Death has served as a Turning Point at several junctures of my life. Like the Age rings on trees, it has left behind age lines that define when I reached not physiological but mental puberty, the point when I was coming of age in my womanness, the telling sign when I had to be the weight-bearing support to myself and the extended family.
Death hits everybody harshly, rendering a fatal blow. It is mostly unkind and cruel, leaving behind a trail of excruciating pain and irreplaceable loss. On rare occasions, death comes as succour bringing relief and respite. Like when it takes away a terminally ill loved one with no hope for any cure or corrective course of action, giving them a dignified exit. But mostly, death is vicious and severe.
Death first came knocking on my threshold when I was all of Nine. Well, actually a month short of it and none the wiser. At that age, you seem to think that your parents are invincible. That they are the best, strongest, bravest and all other superlatives that go into defining caring, loving giants to an overly indulged, pampered child’s eye. Adolescence and hormones have not yet coloured the vision.
A loss is a loss and losing a parent is amongst the worst pains a child will ever face. However, to lose a parent earlier is somewhat easier as you still have not found your bearings. You are too young to grasp the enormity of the loss. Similarly, if you lose a parent later in life, say when you are on the brink of launching yourself into a career or your own family then you have enough distractions to help assuage the pain. But the years between eight (when you are aware enough to know what is happening around you) to eighteen (when you are all grown up but are yet to find a firm mooring) are the hardest.
One evening I was a little, spoilt single child; and the next day I had grown a million years. From an overly protected daughter to a young person of sense and maturity beyond her nine years; the transformation was swift and sudden. And from that point, there was no looking back. One just had to assume a role of responsibility and be all grown up within that small frame; for, there were daily battles to be won and new struggles to be slain.
Studies reveal that children who have lost either of their parents at an early, impressionable age grow up in their mental faculties and worldliness much faster than kids who continue to enjoy the bliss of both parents till later in their lives. The children of loss, for obvious reasons, turn out to be smarter, sturdier and to an extent more stoic. This is not a badge that we carry with a sense of pomp; it is more a survival mechanism to stitch back the torn tapestry of our new life.
Death changes all of us who have experienced it once or several times in our lives. I like to believe that it makes us a lot more tenacious, compassionate and calm. Having faced the worst of our nightmares in real life and pieced ourselves together to come back and stake a claim in our personal ‘Game of Thrones,’ Death is an unwitting ally in shaping us into what we eventually become – stronger, more self-righteous yet sympathetic and spiritual.
Death has been the fulcrum on whose axis my life has turned 180 degrees several times. Like a warrior in a personal battle of ginormous proportions, I have had to fight with all my might. I have had to bring everything I have to combat the grave adversity to then somehow put myself back together into a new whole. One with deep scars to show as signs of devastation that could have annihilated one’s being but from which one liberated one’s soul to nurture a fearless spirit.
Not to say that a normal, wholesome person is not quite talented or an A-list achiever or a performer extraordinaire. But loss and grief add their exquisitely special hues to a person’s thoughts and expressions and creativity. It has been recorded in history that prose, poetry, painting, performing arts have been more poignantly magnificent and wondrously awe-inspiring when presented through the pensive shades of tragedy.
Death will be an unwanted, unwelcome guest in each of our lives. The defining point is how do we learn to deal with it. Do we concede defeat at the hands of such ravaging; losing our will to fight? Or do we, having lost our all, learn to shake ourselves up and rise from the ashes like a Phoenix to find our real purpose and reclaim what we are meant to be?
Death visited me again when at the age of 33, I was firmly ensconced in the captain’s seat to take off to greater heights, both personally and professionally. This time, Ma was taken away from the little world she and I had created for ourselves; cocooning ourselves into a life of love, longing, and strife. With her gone, I had to learn to fill the insurmountable void, I had to pick up the torn out parts to rebuild my life. I had to relearn to live with loss but not without love, with pain but not without the propensity to find pleasure in simple, little things that life presented, with forlornness but not without an ability to create new bonds.
Death has again lent me the severest of blows. My two children, now in that piece of heaven beyond the rainbow bridge, are building a place to which I will find myself beating my final retreat. But before I do that, there is life to be befriended, bonded with and made a soul mate out of.
Death appears indefatigable. But if you have lived this gift of life, on your own terms; and having looked death squarely in the eye, turned your back to it so as to beat a path to your own promised land, have you not defeated it!
Death is inevitable. But so is life – destined and undeniable. Death seems devilishly demonic and unassailably scary. But think about it! Life is more potent. It gives chances and opportunities to reshape, remodel, renew, and rejuvenate. It brings hope and happiness and passion and a sense of promise. And most of all, what would death be without life. Death is because there has been life.