Dealing with death...
I just read an account of the memorial service for my young friend, and there seems to be one major difference that strikes me, between the way this community (I think they are Syrian Christians, but I don’t know!) and mine, speaks of those who are gone. And…I like their way better. To me, talking affectionately of a person with his strengths and weaknesses is a great way to celebrate his memory. . it is holistic….it includes all of the person, “warts and all”. I am not comfortable with the Tambram way of elevating the departed soul to boring, no-faults sainthood; I feel it’s not honest, though done, perhaps, from good motives… but while “speak no ill of the dead” is a good tenet to follow, if taken to extremes, it’s just not credible. When I tried to talk about how my mother had been very irritable (the consequences of her many and major illnesses) I was shushed down and told not to be disloyal. Does loyalty mean that one’s eyes must be firmly closed, or that all faults should be cremated along with the person? I happen to think not.
Another thing I found in funerals of this community, which I wish we Tambrams could incorporate, is the wonderful music they have. It calms the mourners and really helps the heart heal. When we have such a tradition of devotion-driven, and philosophy-inspired Carnatic classical music, why don’t we have any music at our funerary rites?
On my blog, someone has said…“It’s all very well to say Joseph is with God, but if there is a God in Heaven, why did He let his parents and family suffer this pain?” I have no answers.
Another problem I face is that people often don’t bother about the feelings of those who appear to be managing their grief with composure. Those who weep, those who show their feelings, are comforted and solaced…but those who calmly do the necessary work, sometimes are overlooked. Someone may bee a strong person, but that doesn’t mean that what s/he suffers is any less…s/he may cope better, but the pain is the same.
The only way I can make sense of a life cut short, like my young friend’s was, is by remembering the three words of profound truth that my daughter spoke, when she was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous lump, and we didn’t know if she’d need her leg amputated, in 1999… and the chances she had if it was soft-tissue cancer. …I have it in my mind often…“RSH”..”Random Shit Happens”…but it’s also balanced by my own addition, “RGHT”…“Random Goodness Happens Too”.
My heart also goes out to the friends who were with Appu on the hiking trip. How traumatic it must be, to watch a friend fall to his death! I do hope someone is there to comfort them, too, and keep their minds away from the string of “if-only”s and “what-if”s that are likely to creep in.
Another point that always raises its head during such times is the difference between “family” and “non-family”. A family member, even an extended family relation, has the right to go to the place of mourning; a non-family member (unless s/he is extremely close) has to hesitate, wonder if s/he would be adding to the burden or difficulty for the family, and sometimes stay away. And then, one continues with the routine minutiae of one’s everyday life, while yet having a heart full of sorrow, and wondering how the family is coping.
Handling death is as complicated as handling life…