This morning as I heard the sad saga of a 30-year old who gave up on her struggle for life after a fortnight in the ICU, dependent on the mercies of many, pained as she was by the contraptions that were supporting her life and being, I realized that there was no bucketing (no pun intended) of whom your thoughts stayed with as the bucket was hit.
Maybe because I had the time to think of it or may be because they all just came like a bad alignment of stars one didn’t anticipate, or never wishes for. I had a list of 3 calls to make- they were part of my To Do list. I was calling to grieve losses. A daughter, a sister and a wife. The morbidity of my To Do list lingered with me. I was not aware, there was more coming my way. Within days, it was a wife and a niece added.
With a mother lost while they slept next to her, I wondered what consolation the 11-year olds would have having lain next to her, while her soul left the body and perhaps stayed on for a very long time to oversee their welfare. The thought of sleeping next to their dead mother’s body, no longer warm with the love they were so used to, would perhaps torment for years to come. I hoped it wouldn’t. The coldness of death is not easy to accept. Its like none other, when it hits you, the shivers stay on for a long time to come.
A husband lost in a rude cardiac arrest, approaching the paradoxical mid-life. Perhaps they didn’t have the time to even react to what was happening. The young wife, prettily dressed for the evening ahead rushed to seek help, the two children by the side of a father clutching to life’s remnants, calling out, helpless as one is in being unable to help one clutching at the last straws. Bewildered beyond understanding, shocked by the inevitability of the separation imminent. Dependent as they were on that one individual, the thought of having to fly across the land to their native place, 2 young children by her side and a coffin, or maybe a freezer- did it matter except to those who had to deal with the logistics of an unknown human, or one that once was. I have dealt with air ambulances but never a coffin. Its that one experience I would be glad to never be chosen for. I imagined her sitting at airports waiting for the next flight, the connections not being helpful especially since death did not announce its arrival in time for scheduling. Figuring out the logistics of death isn’t simple, no one prepares for it, its not an area of expertise many would master. Mostly wishing to forget the last time it came their way to be handled, a job you wish you’d never have to learn on-the-job.
And then there was a husband who was trying to figure how he would save his wife- helpless and lonely with grown-up children several miles away. Hoping for a recovery that didn’t seem elusive to begin with, having made all arrangements to shift to a better facility with doctors-in-waiting. Children in a faraway land desperate to be at his side- one of them did finally make it. What use was it. One after another, they saw her slip away, unconscious and hopefully oblivious to the restlessness around. There was a niggling doubt, but the rational heart unwilling to accept that one had no way out. Incompetence or the facilities, stuck in beauracratic tangle- how does it matter when the time has come. I had called to check how she was doing- to be told there was nothing more to be done. I had nothing more to say either- silenced once again by the greatest silencer the world knows. I had nothing to say in return for the sobs I heard. Several times, thereafter, dialling the number to offer something, anything. There was nothing I had to offer. How would he live the rest of his life attached as he was to her. Imagining the loneliness of it coupled as it was with the timing of a professional hiatus, I hadn’t the courage to dial another time.
I realized for the third parties its always about what those impacted deal with it as. If you have had the strength in your soul to deal with it yourself, you would be the strength for the other person. But if you have not, you would actually only mirror what the other person felt. Perhaps that’s what explained why when I talked to a friend 20 years after we last connected, at the loss of her father- the conversation quickly moved into the realm of all that we had not caught up on- our careers, families, responsibilities. I assumed it was her way of dealing with what she had lost… a much easier deal for me than I expected it to be. Her equanimity in the conversation making it easier for me to handle the news. Or what was intended to be – my support in helping her handle.
But sometimes it’s the trauma of those who left and what they went through that stays. What were the last minutes like as they realized the horrifying truth of a life cut short. The pain of attempting to being saved and sometimes the embarrassment of being cared for, or worse, of being a duty of someone who views you as nothing but another responsibility- their professions with years of care-providing having hardened their beings at the sight of death or its imminence.
Irrespective of whom your thoughts stayed with, its not easy to know what one needs to do having heard of someone’s loss of a loved one. This especially if you haven’t lived through one yourself.
RIP- the acronym providing much relief to many who struggle to react at the news- to me is the worst condolence one can offer. The least one can do is type out the full form. Those who feel it, have another level for expressing with lengthy whatsapp messages- shock, sadness, condolence, invoking strength for those bearing the loss. Did people never think about who exactly looks at whatsapp messages sitting next to one that was.
But as I delved more into the subject and learnt to view from other’s perspective, it dawned on me- that this probably is their way of dealing with it. Not everyone has it in them to offer anything, lost as we feel, mixed with emotions, reminded of our fears, helpless at the hands of mortatlity.
Not to forget- a realization of the inevitability of life and perhaps a promise to oneself of gratitude for every moment of the shower of grace on our lives. The latter though soon forgotten having extricated yourself from the aftermath of the final end thus experienced by another.