Life, Death and Everything in Between…

Death has been my constant companion since September last year. No, I didn’t lose anyone close to me except Ak last year but every death, close or distant takes me to that familiar, heart crushing state of grief. The same thing happened today with the passing of the marvelous actor Irrfan Khan. Although it is the most certain thing known to all natural beings, death is really incomprehensible. Even with the knowledge that cancer, particularly the one Irrfan was suffering from was most certainly fatal, none of us were expecting to hear such terrible news. Or does it feel worse, because 2020 has already treated us with so much mess? This does feel like a personal loss to me. So did many things that happened in the past few months, be it the death of a neighbour I hardly spoke with, or that of a plant I looked upon as a symbol of hope. Ever since last year I’ve cried for every person/animal I see dying on screen. I have always been touchy on the subject of death and have shed a tear or two in movies but this sense of familiarity with grief is such a new thing for me. I can’t believe I spent twenty eight years without knowing grief, how incredibly lucky of me!

The world is going through a dark time right now. Every day is filled with news of numerous deaths, uncertainty and a feeling of impending doom. It has been really difficult for me to write anything after whatever happened. Even writing these few lines has been a real pain. I spent lots of time online looking for ways to deal with grief in the past few months (along with several queries on ghosts, afterlife, tarot cards, Ouija boards and whatnot). I found a quote by a user named Gsnow on a subreddit, and I go back to read it several times. I don’t know if it matters to anyone, but I would like to write this down somewhere, more for me than for anyone else.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

I don’t know how many shipwrecks I am yet to face in life but love will see me through.