A Relationship with “The Death”
DG was 19; a friend lost her brother she was with her all through the funeral that was the first time she ever saw a dead body. The youth and excitement of life just washed that memory until someone asked the question.
Some ten years back DG worked in remote dessert. One morning off to work saw a dead camel, within a week it was a pile of bones, flesh eating vermin and vultures were working overtime. But that sight of big creature turning into dirt impacted her a lot. She kept struggling with the thought what was the purpose of life if that was all its going to be… most of all adorning the body that is impermanent.
Then second encounter was 3 yrs later when she worked at leading medical college had to go to her office either through the wards or by the morgue. Those were very unhappy times, while crossing the ward she ran into ward boys who were pushing a fully bandaged body on the stretcher, guess it was a cadaver. The minute she was at her desk she just broke down. All she could think was did his loved ones’ know about him, did anyone miss him, did anyone cry for him… It stayed with her for a long time, she would wake up at nights and pray for this departed soul. May be she was just reflecting her insecurities emerging from a very unhappy marriage. Soon she went back to walk by the morgue and one day saw two women (in 20s) sitting with a body in a jeep. May be they came to claim a loved one after postmortem. Those feet seemed pale and cold; guess death is cold and pale…
Since 2003, DG has pledged organs but is still struggling with the thought of donating her body to science. Why is giving up body such a difficult decision? Once she is dead how will it matter what happens to her body. Guess, the attachment to body is the hardest to let go off.
In the west there is a whole economy of decorating the dead. The mortician, undertaker, undertaker’s assistant, funeral homes, limos, florist… What was once family affair and cathartic is now a financial nightmare for many.
More people are worried about the afterlife than the one they have. That is where east and west part ways, they keep the dead living all through the year through head stones and we close all accounts and come back on yearly basis (shradh).
In a course on Death and Grieving, DG and class was asked to draw a picture of your death. Young people drew these black clouds sucking life out of a body on a bed and seniors drew these symbolic images of going home. DG, a diehard romantic had not one but three pictures ready (she loves options) along with the music she would love to hear on her way out and the visuals she’ll prefer. As if she’ll remember… It doesn’t tax to dream… All those dreams that never came true so what another will make it to the list.
Occasionally DG and friends have discussions about death and our deaths for more than 10 minutes because none of us believes in heaven (purgatory is not heaven) or after life. It is not the death that scares us but the life; the prospect of long life, infirmity, lack of companionship, changing economic times and what not.
What is more scary definite death or unpredictable life…