Happy New year to you all!
As we move into the year 2017, I’m hit with thoughts of transience. 2016 was a year I came face to face with death. I lost my mother quite suddenly. Though she had been unwell for a while, I didn’t expect her to pass on all of a sudden. It took me a while to make sense of it all. One moment she was with us, watching TV from her favourite seat. A week later I was looking for a photograph for her memorial rituals.
As we brought back her mortal remains from the hospital and I was preparing her for her final journey (dressing her up like a Hindu married woman) it just seemed she was sleeping and would open her eyes suddenly and ask what the hell I was up to!)
What about her thoughts, wishes and plans? A family friend’s grand-daughter was getting married. She asked if she would be able to go. Did the stopping of her heartbeat and end of any electrical activity in her brain mean the end of her completely?
Is there some part of us that lives on after our body dies? Is there a soul? Has Ma been reborn somewhere? Does she remember this life? Did her thoughts outlive her body? Do some part of our loved ones live on within us? What is the point of life?
Humans have come up with so many theories and ideas surrounding death. Each community, culture and religion tries to answer these questions. But do we really know?
2016 also brought news of so many people passing on. Friends losing a parent or a sibling.
But 2016 also brought in news of new life. A new tiny new human…. New?
Life goes on… So many people commented how strong and steady I was through the entire time. Tears did come unbidden, but I didn’t break down and weep like a child. I don’t know. Did I feel any less sorrow than most other people? I don’t know. But I do know that I knew my mother to be a strong and practical woman. I tried to make her last journey as I think she would have liked. No great show, but prompt, practical cremation. A long drive to Garh Mukteshwar, a boat ride, a walk through sugarcane fields. Ma would have loved a trip like that.
I think the presence of my children had a stabilising effect on me. They have helped me to remain steady. The grandmother was deeply attached to her granddaughters. They miss her but do not get teary eyed when they talk of her. They just talk of everyday memories like how she would give them a bath, or feed them. Or even how they lay in her lap as she watched her favourite shows on television.
Ma lived a full life. When people came home to express their condolences, they all talked about how she had touched their lives. Even now when we meet, they talk about her and what they miss about her.
I am not sure why this is my first post of this year. Maybe the news of my favourite uncle’s demise has something to do with it.
‘The sun cannot rise if it does not set.’
‘There is no joy without sorrow.’
‘When you are born, you cry while the world smiles down at you. When you die, you smile while the world cries for you.’
Is it the sun rising? Or is it setting? Is it the same with birth and death?