Death takes its own time coming. Sometimes it comes unannounced and many a times we deem it as, untimely. But what does one do when death creeps up behind you, announces its presence and intent and waits till you can reconcile with its presence in your life?
Indeed, can one ever reconcile to the idea of death? Even if it is the only ONE certainty in life.
Three years ago, my father died at the age of 83, after a prolonged battle with multiple illnesses. The last three weeks of his living were spent in a state of coma – as far as the living was concerned – he had stopped doing that days ago. For us- his family – gathered in waiting rooms and doctors’ chambers – the uncertainty and the veiled threat of his not living much longer felt like a dull, dense fog. The heart hurt and lurched at the sight of a loved one who was making a long, painful journey away from us. The fact that he would never open his eyes or talk to us again – even as he breathed and existed in our presence was beyond torture.
We prepared for death – but we didn’t prepare for it. We were ready, but then we were not. Sometimes, one does not have the courage to get ready for the inevitable. When I got a call from my mother, informing me that it would not be much longer – I had to decide between two flight options. One that would keep me with my young family long enough to put the kids to bed and the other that would fly me right out. I chose the former – hoping against hope that the inevitable would wait for me to put the kids to bed.
It did. But the interim hours were hell. In my head, my father had gone the day he had slipped into coma. But he was breathing and even as his organs shut down slowly, one painful turn after another – I had to go back to tending to life. Mine, my children’s, the other little lives and promises that throbbed on regardless of the fight that my father was losing far, far away.
The technicality of death and the grasping of it are two different things. The medical attendant was precise in his calculation of the time of death. As for us, hours after he had stopped breathing I could see his chest heave a bit and a small smile play on his lips even as there were tears, wails and hymns renting the air around. Grief, per se, is not the all encompassing blanket that I had envisioned it to be either. Sudden kicks of sadness and loss to the gut, were followed by long swathes of time with no unease or affect. Most mourners who came in the following days, would cry and be ill at ease, and one had to assume the role of the consoler instead.
This is what happens then. When someone dies, the living need to live just a little bit more. And I will say this as humbly as I can – death reminds us of the urgency of living. The one who leaves, gives us a little nudge forward – towards our own inevitability – but also towards the life that needs an earnest living.