Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beautiful Ends

I've always read obituaries in the paper. And even shed a few tears for people that I've never known. Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking of death and pain even more. For one, because I lost my eldest aunt (the first of my mother's seven siblings) to cerebral haemorraghing. She was 73...but not old, as dynamic as ever. As her grandchildren stepped out, specially dressed by her for the Onam celebrations at school, she accompanied them to the gate, ensured they got their transport. Little did anyone think this was to be a final farewell.
A few hours later, we heard she was sick... we hoped, we prayed, we questioned why the doctors were taking no more action...but less than 48 hours after she was hospitalised, she passed away.
A week after the funeral, her younger grand daughter Karen was found carrying a picture of her to school. Her response had me in tears: "I carry it so that I can look at it whenever I have a moment". The family say they often find her kissing the photo.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been listening to fragments of stories adding to the memories of my aunt. This is my tribute to the woman who personified resilience, who kept going when life handed her more than her fair share of bitter lemons. She reminds me that it is possible to keep loving, even when people and situations take nasty turns. And somewhere in my heart, I am glad that she'll never be in pain again, physical and emotional, and that she's with the Lord, at rest for ever.

The death of two other people, have also taught me some strange lessons. One was a family friends' father. I will always remember him as the cheerful old gentleman who after cancer and radiation managed an exhaustive tour of Israel on foot in his 70s, simply because he wanted to.

The other, a young girl of 19, who I am only connected to through blogosphere, who succumbed to dengue last month. I don't know Tejaswee but her pictures tell me she was sunny, vivacious, bursting with life and energy. I read her blog, a letter that she writes over a year ago to a child that she planned to adopt sometime in the future and I quote my favourite line: "I dream big, and I watch my dreams fall. Right now, I have the strength to rise."

Hark....the death knells

Behind the crazily crowded street that leads to my office is a cemetery. I've never seen it but every once in a while,I come across a small procession of men making their way to the burial ground, carrying on their shoulders,the mortal remains of a loved one. I dare not to imagine their emotions as horns blare, urging them to move on, move quicker and make way for traffic when all they want is perhaps to take it slow, to make the last few minutes with somebody last just a little longer? That people will be sensitive to their loss.

Everytime I see them, I tell myself that I can afford to wait another five minutes to get to the office. Because I have memories of a sunny November afternoon when I was part of the procession of vehicles making its way through the streets of Old Bhopal to the cemetery allotted to Christians. We doubted if the ambulance would make its way through the last stretch- a narrow crowded alleyway lined with houses on either side. For a few minutes, the little children in the area forsook their favourite playground (the road), all business and talk was forgotten. And as we slowly moved ahead, I have a hazy memory of some of them even throwing open the gates of the cemetery to let the ambulance in. I am grateful for that moment, for the symbolic gesture of kindness for a person in pain.