Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning to Honor Death without Feeling Lost

This weekend, I read a book that dealt with death, a fact of life that has always fascinated me because it is more real than life, like the darkest colors that haunt the night just before the beginning of dawn. Have you not ever felt that way on losing some one you've loved? The feeling of never ever being able to see or touch that person, that can be so heartbreaking even if you've got tons of memories stocked away in your mind.

When I was a kid, I remember a wonderful, picture perfect Christian family I'd known. They were family friends. Extremely rich, well spoken, happy and wonderful to be with, their story is something I never forget because its the first time, as a child, I sensed and witnessed the power of death.

The mother, a wonderful human being, died in a tragic car accident. Their two daughters were just beginning their teens. They were two beautiful girls. No body knew what happened to them. Their mother's death destroyed them. I remember hearing the younger one scream after her mother's coffin was lowered, she cried out, "Please let me see my mother's face. I want to kiss her because I can never kiss her again." I remember crying when I heard that though I do not know then what death means or does to those who've lost a loved one.

The two girls were greatly loved and cared for by every one but they charted out a destiny for themselves that no body could change for them. They began to smoke, drink, get into relationships off and on nearly every guy around and had public brawls where they fought over the guys they both wanted to be involved with. What strikes me as sad is that the two girls were not even eighteen at that time.

I was much younger but I remember hearing people say, "This is what happens to children if they don't have a mother."

Whenever I think of anything related to death, somehow, their memory comes back to me.

That brings me back to the novel I read. Its called "Firefly Beach" by Luanne Rice. It involves three very different sisters who suffer the sins of their father's philanderings and mother's mental breakdown. Their father, who had been a womaniser, wanted his daughters to be as strong as 'men' so he would take them hunting in the woods and teach them to use the gun, without realizing that they hated hunting down animals.

One day, one of his daughters kills an innocent man by mistake when hunting in the woods. That death haunts her and she never forgives herself or her father for making her a murderess. She drinks, squanders away her life and feels like a murderess in her heart because she can never forget the face of the young man whom she killed.

Of course, the girls move on in life, try to find happiness despite the lack of stable relationships with men and they learn the really important things in life. As a writer, I loved the way Luanne Rice relates how their father's death and the way he had lived with them affects their whole life in different ways. It still doesn't seem fair, even after many years, that they resent him for teaching them to be stronger than men and to hunt down innocent prey.

Still, the author, Luanne Rice, indicates in subtle ways that the void their father left behind never went away because despite all his flaws, he was one of a kind.

As I read the book, I was reminded of the two sisters whose mother had passed away. Yet as the years have passed, I believe that coming to terms with the death of a loved one is more difficult than we imagine. Human interactions are so closely woven with emotions that it becomes a challenge to accept the life of a loved one is over and that it is time to let go forever of what was.

In that context, I've got to mention my dad because he has always set a solid, remarkable foundation for me. He always says that life and death are two sides of the same coin and our role is to cherish what we have and let it go without remorse when its time to do that. In all my thoughts and actions, my dad remains my inspiration. His advice enables me to make good, growth oriented decisions for myself. I can't think of a better way for a parent to bring up a kid so that the right values are in place and we are able to live our lives for the better, without hurting, manipulating or being selfish to others.

Some legacies, if they are invaluable enough, live on. I think that's what we need to honor our loved ones with, and not sink into depths which we may not be able to come out of.

13 comments:

Prakash P said...

Yeah. It's really very emotional to loose somebody very close to us. I lost my Grand Pa when I was still a kid, at that time I haven't realized what death is & I in fact was happily playing with other kids around there.. But later after few years when I realized that I can't see my Grand Pa again it was very painful. I made me cry many days... Though we are not in the realizable stage when such incident happens, it always be a pain we understand it...

readersdais said...

There is a story of two brothers whose father was a drunkard and spend all their wealth,one thought my father was a drunkard,so il also do what ifeel and went the wrong way,the second thought my father wasted all.il never be like him,il live a good life...so it depends, how one concieves,it can be done in either way.It was a nice post of urs.

angela hardison said...

Sounds like a pretty sad book... sometimes the best books are a little bit depressing though. I haven't really lost a very close friend/family member, so I hope I can handle it okay when it happens.

Shri said...

I loved what your dad said that 'both death and life are two sides of the same coin'.It does take a while to sink in the reality if you lose some one dear to you.I guess I don't have to read the book as you have summarized it so well!

Maria Killam said...

I can't imagine what that would have been like to lose my mom at a young age. Very sad when that happens.

Divya said...

very touching.. interesting though

Rohit said...

Excellent post Swapna! It is indeed very very tough to let go of someone who has been very close to you and more or less been a part of your life. I guess its how you cope with the loss that would honor a death. Coping with death might get a bit easier with time but the first stages fill you with emotions and sometimes even bereavement.

manchitra said...

Though we now death is inevitable it is difficult to accept when we lose our close ones.The death of my brother has left a deep wound in my heart. Some times I find it difficult to accept the truth, because that is what love and relationship does to our life.

You really write well.

Sudeep Bhaumick said...

death... ah... an unavoidable outcome to every life... as you quite nicely put... two sides of the same coin...

there is a poetry i am reminded of...
http://connieshaklin.blogspot.com/2007/01/dear-umbrella-man.html

Uma said...

Losing a mother at that age is the worst thing that can happen. And people have different ways of coping with grief. I have also seen some people feeling guilty about living happily after they have lost someone they love - my take though is that it is important to continue to lead a good life to show them the value of what they have left behind for you.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Thanks all for voicing your thoughts. Its something personal yet all of you chose to share something close to your hearts about the topic.

Always, feel free to comment, share thoughts and visit again. Luv you all and thank you so much for the overwhelming response and encouragement.

itchingtowrite said...

the story of the 2 sisters- so heartbreaking

Kanupriya said...

Very nice one...death of a close one is unbearable but yes for the sake of your old relationship one should not do anything which could cause hurt to the soul of the departed. Though having experienced the death of my very close ones, I know that it is just so difficult to carry on with life the same way...

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