Sunday, January 5, 2014

Add ‘preparing’ for death to your to-do-list?

Life comes with a deadline and when the time is over death just lifts you with its claws. Life teaches you a lot but it can never teach you the lessons that death can. Many of you may not have the patience to read this long gloomy post, piece of writing, but it is my request that you read. I am going to be comparing death with things like a donut and you may find it lame, hurtful and hate it too. But I am going to do so because I want each one of us, 25 or 65, to prepare for death, not as much as for our sakes but for the sakes of the lives we leave behind. We prepare so much to sit for an entrance exam, to get ready for a party, to speak to our boss for a raise, to propose to our teenage crush…can I request you to take a few minutes out and prepare for death? I don’t want anyone to start living in a state of fear (as I admit, I do) after reading this piece but I do want you to feel a lump in your throat by the end, the lump that will make you brave enough to approach the topic, death, with your family and friends. And if you don’t have the patience to read it all, just read the last bit. I don’t believe in talking of my personal pain on public platforms, I refrain from it all the time but this time around I want to, for two reasons, one, I need to write this to help me feel better and two, I want everyone to ‘prepare’.

It was two years and two months back that one of my best friends lost her dad. Ever since I have changed as a friend, daughter, sister, aunt, lately a wife; I am a different person. A person who lives in a constant state of fear, a person who asks herself the same question each morning, ‘Are we growing that fast that our parents are going away?’ Yes, we’re growing old, and our parents older. But, ‘It is time for them to go away?’ Is there ever a ‘destined’ or ‘right’ time for parents to just go away? Is there a ‘time’ for anyone to go away? I shiver when my phone rings at a time it should not. I cross my fingers when I get a SMS at an odd hour that reads, Call Me. On that day when we visited our friend, another friend had said, ‘There was a time we stood with each other when we stepped on the stage for a school annual day performance now we’re here, we’ve really grown up.’ It was true, is true, we’re growing up. But growing up was not making things easier. It was just bringing us closer to the loss.  After I lost my grandparents a couple of years ago (both within less than a gap of a year, such was their love that my nana decided to join my nani, when she left) I spent years crying in the dark when everyone was sleeping. I had to be brave, I was in my 20s. I had tried to comfort myself in many ways. I told myself that at least nani came back home after staying in the coma for a while and lived and left us from home, not in a hospital. When nana gave up on ‘living’ and we could see him slowly drifting away from us we prayed and tried to comfort him with ‘our’ presence but we couldn’t, how do you comfort a person to live without ‘someone’ he had lived with for more than 60 years? We panic at the sight of having to give away even a phone that we have used for years.  When he left us, I tried to comfort myself saying, ‘At least they are together now.’ Even till date I get moist-eyed every single day but I don’t hide my pain anymore, I just look up and imagine both of them looking at all of us, smiling. I tell them, I love them and I rub off my tears and get on with life. But that’s not one of the hardest lessons ‘death’ has taught me. To ‘go on with life’ is hard but not the hardest. I remember an aunt of a friend who had lost her husband when her kids when 10 and 8 saying these words, ‘You know why God build us the way he did? So that when we lose someone we force ourselves to get busy with lives. If there were no food to cook, no job to earn money from, no kids to live for, no electricity bill to remember to pay, etc. what would we do fill up the hours, what would get us back to life?’ And till date her words ring in my ears, the starkness of the words. The simple truth about death.

As I write this I have lost a dear uncle to a sudden heart attack. One evening he was smiling, same night he was no more. Someone has lost a son, someone a brother, someone a  husband, someone a father. They will bounce back, live, get on with life. We will make sure they do, we will be around, we will be…but he will not. Life will never be the same for all of us. How will they live from this day on, I don’t know. My hands shiver as I write this. We can’t fight death. When I spoke to my aunt  (his wife) she said, ‘We can’t bring him back. We all have lovely memories of him.’ She was giving me courage, holding herself for her children. Her loss is unimaginable and she is already ‘living on’ for the lives around her. Do we have the courage to do that? Or does death give us the courage? I don’t have the answers. So, I am asking myself these questions again and taking certain decisions, will you too please? Let’s prepare ourselves.

·         Stay fit. Just like you take out time for a drink with friends, a movie date with your partner, an extra hour for a presentation… take out time to exercise, to visit a doctor regularly. Get the required check-ups. If you can spend money on a pair of shoes you can spend it on a semi-annual or annual medical check-up? FIT PEOPLE DIE, YOUNG PEOPLE DIE. Don’t think you are a fit because you take the stairs and sleep well, get a check-up. Go to a doctor.
·         Encourage (if required force) your parents to stay fit. They will ignore you at times. Gain weight, refuse to go to a doctor for a cough, headache, chest pain etc. Even if they say they’re feeling better, go visit them. Take them to a doc. Keep a tab on their pills, checking every now and then if they’re taking the required dose.
·         Respect your parents. Once upon a time they were patient with you when you threw tantrums to go to a doctor or drink the sweet syrup. They missed movies, changed jobs, shifted homes, and sacrificed passions for your sake. When it is your turn to do that, DO THAT. They are your KIDS now, who need the love, care, warmth. Just like you were lost on the first day at school or college and they held your hand, today they are lost, when you left the home and went to hostel or started your own family or took a job somewhere else, they felt as lost. HOLD THEIR HANDS.
·         Today it was he/he/them/his/her….tomorrow it will be you/me/us. People go away. Remember there will be a day we will go away. It is not always that ‘others’ lose their dear ones. WE WILL LOSE OUR LOVED ONES TOO. Make arrangements. If you are married, sit down with your partner tell him/her about the insurance covers, bank nominee papers, medical covers…prepare a file with all the details, contact numbers, etc. You don’t want her/him to be dealing with the paperwork in those times. Tell your children the same thing too. Prepare them.
·         Sit down with your parents and ask them to make a WILL. You do that too. Pain, money, greed…such emotions make people act weird, you don’t want to ever fight with your siblings or parent over money. God forbid, you become your greedy or your sibling does, you don’t want to fight. Not all children fight, but some do. Do your parents a favour, do yourself a favour, and make a will. No you are not too fit or young, make a will.
·         Develop a hobby. You don’t want to be dependent on anyone to fill in those empty hours when you have lost your partner and have no one left to share a cup of chai with. We will all die someday, sooner or later, we all feel lonely. We all look up to our busy friends, children…whose lives will not halt as badly as ours would when we lose our partner or parent or friend. So find for yourself a comforting interest that will if nothing distracts your mind when you will really need it.
·         Never sleep over a fight, never leave home angry, never hang up pissed… in short, complete every angry moment with a resolve, smile, solution, hug. You will not be able to live with the regret of being angry with the person you saw, spoke to for the last time.
·         Let the person grieve. Each one of us has our own way of grieving with loss. If a person wants to be left alone for a while, let him/her be, making sure they are fine. If they are angry, let them scream at you.
·         And last, just tell your loved ones you LOVE THEM, each day, each moment, hug them tight and tell them they mean the world to you.

 Image: here

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