When There is Widespread Unpreparedness for The Ultimate Truth Called Death

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

It was early morning. I received a message about the sudden demise of my best friend’s father. His father(my uncle) had a heart attack. The worst part was that my friend wasn’t there in the city. He was some 1500 miles away on business trip. It took him multiple road & air journey to make it to the city the next day in the evening, braving all his emotions while going through every unexpected turn of events involved in the last minute travelling.

Almost a year back uncle was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. Thrice a week uncle had to undergo dialysis. It had become an integral part of his weekly routine. Although there were visible signs of deterioration in his overall health, it couldn’t prepare anyone in the family for this sudden loss. It came as a shock for everyone.

Disease or no disease, visible signs or no signs, I guess nothing can prepare any of us for this ultimate loss of someone who is so close to our heart.

The departure of this physical body is an inevitable part of our human existence. This universal truth is known to each one of us. Still, the accumulated wisdom seems woefully inadequate to prepare us for that unexpected event.

When it comes to broaching this ultimate truth, somehow our modern daily discourse (whatever is left of it after a daily dose of screen time) is seemingly so sanitised that we usually refrain from even hinting at the dreaded topic.

And the reason is not that difficult to identify — FEAR. This underlying fear under best of circumstances usually evokes a response of denial. 

When there exists a sense of denial due to widespread fear, how do you expect someone even to acknowledge its presence? 

Well, we can at least begin by putting things in proper perspective by revisiting this quote:

“I believe the biggest themes of life are put into the best focus when held up against the very sharp light of mortality.” — Mitch Albom

But how do you expect a quote to make a difference in your long-held belief? 

More or less the same way three meals a day succeeds in creating & maintaining physicality of every shape & size. 

If we make it a point to imbibe the essence of mortality by developing some habit to revisit the quote daily, maybe we stand a chance to bring some awareness of death in our life.

Since life is lived one day at a time. We often forget that “Life is short.”

Quite often you may find yourself at crossroads, grappling with a life situation that shakes you out of your slumber. A few months back, I wouldn’t say I was woken out of my deep sleep but jolted to an extent to face reality in a way that was different from the figment of my imagination.

My father has always been my hero; I guess every father is for every child. I have never seen him in physical pain before, leave alone being admitted to hospital. But in the last six month, I have been a witness to his physical vulnerability where he had to undergo four surgery for different ailments.

He is into his seventh decade and yet I could never reconcile with the fact that he could ever face any deterioration in his physical health. The fact that my hero was not only growing old but also developing multiple health related issues was something the child inside me was still not willing to accept. However with the increase in frequency of hospital visit that illusion was starting to show some visible signs of cracks.

And I guess that’s how you learn to accept things as they are not as you wish them to be. You start venturing beyond the limits circumscribed by your FEAR.

Death of an unknown person is just statistics for everyone except the family of the deceased soul. When death chooses to snatch someone close to us, it usually throws us in an emotional tailspin.

The great American psychologist William James wrote,

“Between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine the line is difficult to draw.” In that sense, he observed, “our immediate family is a part of ourselves. Our father and mother, our wife and kids, are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. When they die, a part of our very selves is gone.”

That means the definition of my physical boundary often gets extended to near & dear ones. Which in turn plays a critical role in controlling our emotional reaction.

We live in a culture that is almost totally ignorant of death. As a consequence, we end up carrying too much attachment to sensory experience and too much identification with the manifested world.

One thing that can prepare us for inevitable dissolution of the physical form is the death of the false self. 

Once we succeed, we cease to derive our identity from structures which are manifested out of our mind. As soon as we realize that our identification with form was nothing but an illusion, we succeed in breaking the illusion of death. And it stops being a source of pain anymore. 

But as long as our identity is tied with our possessions & profession, social status & recognition, knowledge & wisdom, physical appearance & belief system, our ability to shatter the illusion of death will remain doubtful. 

Death is stripping away of everything that is dependent on our identity, where we realize that there is no death.

For example, to complete a circle, we need to come back to the point at which, it all started, because the end at which the circle begins ( the birth) and the point at which it ends ( the death) is one and the same.

Have you ever noticed the reaction of a toddler who gets frightened & unsettled by his own shadow, because he lacks a basic understanding of the underlying concept? 

That’s the precise beauty of seeing & understanding things from a fresh perspective of universal wisdom. In the absence of that understanding even the small & trivial issue looks like some Da Vinci code.

Since the mind & the resistance are synonymous, acceptance of death as something integral to human existence helps us immensely in getting rid from dominance of illusions created by mind. We learn to stop rationalising those illusions created under the influence of fear, greed, control or ego.

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