My cousin recently passed away after suffering from Cancer for last 4-5 years. The years had been pretty horrible for her.
“We’re very sorry to hear about your cousin’s death”, said some of my family members, who were unrelated to her. “She was suffering so much. It’s good she’s relieved of that suffering”, is what i said in response where i could freely do so, or mumbled something to others where i could not be so expressive – even as i really meant to say exactly this.
My grandfather had deeply influenced my early years of life. He used to tell me the story of a king who had a wise minister only to remind him constantly of the certainty of death. “Remember death!” were the words that this minister used to whisper into this king’s ears every now and then during his courtroom sessions. A constant reminder of this unchangeable truth helped the king remain righteous in conducting his duties. I’ve remembered this story ever since my teens.
But sadly my grandfather did not live his last 4-5 years with this inspirational philosophy. He passed away earlier this year at 93, and did suffer a lot in these last years. The suffering was not due to some horrible disease, but just sheer old age and failing body parts – which was given some name or another, and dragged on through medicine and “hospital care“.
Last year during another week long hospitalisation of my grandfather, i was having a casual conversation with my driver on my grandfather’s constant hospitalisation. “Dawaiyon pe ji rahein hain; agar hamare gaon mein hote to kab ke guzar chuke hote (He’s living off medicines; had he been living in my village he would have passed away a long time back)”, he shared, finding the room to self-express that i’ve given him.
His own grandmother passed away at 92 last year. She got up as usual at 4am, milked the cows, fed them, cleaned the backyard, ate her breakfast, felt a little tired so thought she should take a little nap, and never woke up from that. What a peaceful and healthy way to die! My uncle’s mother had given strict instructions to her 3 sons to not take her to hospital if she became seriously unwell. She wanted to die on her bed at her home peacefully, and clearly said that she did not want her to be dragged in hospitals when it was time for her to go. I find such tremendous grace in such a thought pattern.
If you’ve seen the movie “Avatar“, you may recall Jake Sully recalling in one recording session that ‘Neytiri keeps talking about the flow of energy; and that we’re all made from from the same energy; and when it is time to go we have to give up this body to Eyma (the Mother).
The same profundity!
The whole system of modern medicine is around prolonging life. Funnily, our whole way of living life is around destroying it. The book series “Conversations with God” speaks about the slow suicide we commit by eating unhealthy food, drinking, ingesting animals, smoking – and in all possible ways – abusing our body. We’ve been brainwashed out of having the grace of giving up this body.
My Guru, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev expresses this very beautifully. “This body is loan from the earth”, he says, “and if we invest time in nurturing and caring for it, then when the time comes to return the loan, we would do it gracefully”.
We people need to become aware, truly aware, of the certainty and finality of death. This is not as if one would be working towards dying, as my sister-in-law, during such a discussion put it; but actually completely the opposite.
One would live more responsibly and more fully from such a deep awareness. Our investment in our bodies would much higher, our businesses would be run more righteously (just like the king!), and we would be far more cognizant about our deep connection with the beings we share this planet with, and certainly more aware of our interdependence with the forests. Our air would be cleaner, and so would be our rivers; our food would have a lot less chemicals and lot more nutrition; there would even be lesser wars, and a lot more love and dignity in the world.
And a lot more life in our lives. If only we’d be willing to die gracefully!