…no one knows it..
No one wants to know it..
And anyways what do we mean by the process of that which is the end of all processes…physical or otherwise.
I wanted to bring in the metaphysical but decided against it. After all am no expert on the subject. But neither am I am expert on the subject of death. But who is? Any one… actually no one would want to claim the same. A subject thought of with trepidation and a feeling of sinking.
Much as we know its inevitability, we are unwilling to learn what it is that one needs to do when faced with it. For oneself or for a dear one or sometimes for that matter, a stranger’s.
To me, the vision of one’s life flashing in one’s mind is what is the closest I have experienced to a near-death vision. But disconcerting as it may be to experience, it is no better than when you see someone – stranger- or otherwise- let go of their worldly cover in front of your eyes.
Nevertheless, the worse perhaps is to deal with that of a near one (maybe). One can never be too prepared. In fact, I cannot but equate it to the arrival of a new born. Several believe in being unprepared for it, lest the evil eye cast upon the life that is yet to be born into the world, harm it in any way. Its similar to the end, one does not want to think about it, lest, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy which one would never forgive oneself about.
No wonder, when it happens, one is too caught up in the process to be followed that would ensure that the afterlife, or whatever realm the soul arrives into is a comfortable existence, or whatever it is that the soul occupies- immortal as it is.
In talking to a friend who sat by his father’s lifeless body, I wondered whom he would have called with regards to the next steps, having realized what eventuality had befallen. Between the priest, the coroner, the cremation ground, the municipal officer, family, friends… there is never an order which can be pre-determined.
Between reaching out for consolation and ensuring the ‘right-ness’ of the process, one tends to focus more on the latter in those initial minutes, hours and days, lest the departed are not as comfortable, just because we didn’t do the needful right.
It can be mind-gobbling. But then, does the mind that is numbed with the departure really mind, such a maze of processes that one needs to follow? Well, I realized, perhaps the processes are for the best. Yes, took me years to realize, what I had been holding against our religious beliefs as a set of rituals which didn’t allow me the time and solace of mourning the way I wanted, was perhaps the best.
One is so puzzled in figuring these out, that the magnitude of what has happened takes a while to sink in. In fact, I have chosen to not reach out to people immediately after a dear one’s demise- because the enormity of loss actually bothers much later. It is when the tears have dried up, when the process is all completed.
There must be a science to it. In Hindus, the fourth day, the thirteenth day. The scriptures would explain why what needs to be done on a certain day, happens on that particular day. I am no expert on it, but I now understand it is for the best, and that all those who have carried that knowledge to ensure we follow the process, were doing so as a service to humanity.
Healing takes time, perhaps never fully so. But it’s the freshness of the wounds that the process helps heal. I remember learning about the ritual of food not being cooked in the home of those who lost their dear one. Neighbours and friends catering to their requirements, or whatever that the human body can manage at a time when it is undergoing an upheaval thus. It is for the best – it allows for them to not have to focus on the desires of the body and stay with the one who just gave up on it.
The more we are steeped in science, the more we are frustrated with processes that are not always explained well to us. But the ancients had their reasons for ensuring things happened the way they should. Its perhaps the same as when a mother is asked to not exert herself for the first forty days and just be with the baby newly born. Healing and bonding, I was surprised when my gynaecologist had told me about this. Yes, there was a science to it, or perhaps we found a way to marry that which was easier to explain with that, that we find difficult to do so or are perhaps are unwilling to.
Never a welcome visitor, Yama was never personified as a pleasant (though smiling) personality. His appearance unwanted, his arrival dreaded. Stories aplenty of the mighty lord giving in to the wishes of those whose loved ones wouldn’t let go of them despite his insistence. That story of Savitri convincing Yama to spare Satyavan or that exchange of lives that Alcestis bargains for, as she agrees to die instead of her husband Admetus. Exceptions to the process, which proved the rule- that when the time comes, one must let go. It is for the best, and what follows is also always for the best. Unprepared and ignorant as we may feel, it is what begins a new life- one that we find difficult to see, and sometimes accept- yes, the inevitable!