On death ...

As, you might have guessed reading the previous post, the story "A Letter from Elaine" was inspired by a discussion on "Death", that I had with my wife (then, girlfriend). We talked about how it would be if one of us passed away and the other had to cope with living on. Trivial though it may seem, 'living on' can be one of the most difficult things that one may have to do in such circumstances.

Death is common. Its all around us. We see it everywhere, we feel it wherever there is life. Ancients believed in the duality of Life and Death as a 'passage into the unknown'. The yin and the yang, the white and the black (incidently, the two most common colors associated with both life and death. With beginings -- white for weddings, and the end -- white / black for funerals). We are all familiar with the famous stages of grief (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' book, "On Death and Dying."), viz., Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The denial stems from the fact that we have always grown up believing that 'bad things happen to other people'. The very notion of death occurring in our own family, or in our own lives, seems a far-fetched theory. We are angry, but that anger is more towards our own helplessness in stopping death, than towards death itself (this actually qualifies as 'acceptance' too. We accept death as a reality, but are unable to stop its advance). The most entertaining stage is the bargaining. Bargaining can occur at all ages, at all strata in the society (more so in the upper), in all religions (they are the chief means for the barter), and across race, gender, time. The devout offer their services to the holy to buy some time, the rich offer their wealth. Its all in the name of 'punya', the Hindu name for accumulated pious. Hindus believe that with enough accumulation of 'punya', they can bargain a later death, or at least, a place in the heaven. Just shows how selfish humans are, instinctively! We may have shot satellites in space, but at our core, we are still the hunter-gatherer tribe that we used to be. Only the means have changed from primitive rock-weapons to the more civilised religious rituals and traditions, but the goal remains the same -- hunt for more, gather more, live more, but at the expense of fellow humans. So we invent more sophisticated forms of bargaining with Him, in the hope that we may buy an extra day, an extra hour to milk our fellow beings. Come to think of it, I have never seen a dog stand on one leg for days together, just to please a god and ask for a boon. Its only too late that we realise that Death is one tough guy who cannot be bargained with !! But resourceful as humans are, they have also invented ways to veil their defeat in this acceptance. Death, now is not a 'period', but turns out its a 'comma' in the story of life. Its a "door into the unknown". The more you know that you are helpless, the more you want to cling on to. This feeling of not-letting-go then extends into reincarnation and mumbo-jumbo about having multiple lives.

That was quite a digression, thank you !! Coming back, well, our discussion got me thinking about how I would actually feel if I was the one left to live on. Though I dont think my reaction to that situation would be as extreme as the protagonist in the story, it would border somewhat between acceptance and denial, for I believe that we have but ONE lifetime, so live it to its fullest and share it with the one you love till the last moment !! Let people truly say "He lived till he died" ...
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