Paati* died on a Friday. In the wee hours of a cold December morning in Bangalore, she breathed her last at the age of 97. As the first rays of the sun brought in the much needed warmth, we heaved a sigh of relief amidst the coldness of death.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I loved Paati, in fact all of us did. She was the back bone of the family. Yet, standing by the bedside that morning and looking at her still face, I was glad it was all over. It was a long drawn battle with Alzheimer’s. Days passed into weeks and weeks into years, until she was reduced to a mere frame. It was a painful sight. Unable to move she would have pipes to feed her and an attender who would take care of the body and its needs. Lying still on her bed, Paati slowly failed to recognize any one of us. But for some strange reason her life clung on to her body, refusing to let go.
She was the kindest of souls in my life. I still remember my childhood days spent in her lovely little home in Chennai. The kitchen would be stocked up with the most yummy savories and sweets and every meal would be a surprise. She did belong to a generation that was far healthier. No wonder Paati outlived many family members who were younger than her.
One person’s belief is absurdity to another
Paati believed that there was more to life than eye can see. She would tell me tales of angels & demons, and that it is only good deeds that would land you a place in heaven. Stirring the demons inside would warrant a place in hell. She had once sat me down and expressed her deep down desire to leave the mortal world on “Vaikunta Ekadasi” day. An extremely auspicious days for Hindus, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it is believed that dying on this day could liberate the soul from the cycle of birth and death. To me this seemed to be an absurd thought. I would spend hours arguing with her with all my scientific practicality that we humans are just a complex structure of energy blocks. The existence of hell & heaven and soul liberation is just religious folklore.
During the days leading to her end, I would spend a great deal of time by her side holding her hand and staring at its great detail. The bulging nerves, the pale skin,the shriveled up palm and it’s hardened lines, it spoke volumes of who we actually are. That Friday morning as we sat preparing for her journey to the other side of life, my eyes casually fell on the Tamil calendar hanging by her bedside. It was Vaikunta Ekadasi day!
Did the soul deliberately hang on? Was it paranormal or, just a mere co-incidence? I didn’t have an answer. But I heaved a bigger sigh of relief that her deepest desire of liberation from birth and death had been fulfilled. It didn’t matter any more if it sounded absurd. It just was her belief.
How far do we need to go?
Death begins when life ceases. And life ceases when we lose the ability to be an active part of our home, society and world; when we are robbed of our creativity and who we actually are. Paati had already died when she began her energy-sapping battle with Alzheimer’s. Just that her soul thought otherwise, and preferred to cling on to her body.
Advancements in modern medicine present us with opportunities to live longer lives and fight life threatening diseases at a chronic stage for longer periods of time. But living too long with a declining state of health is worse than death in itself. Much as we all want our loved ones to live life for eternity- life that is just hanging on by a thin string is pain that only death can cure.
A tear drop and a smile, life goes on
It is said that the brain stays active for a few moments after that last breath. In those wee hours of morning, as Paati finally let go, a single tear drop fell from her eye. A faint smile froze on her face; it seemed she was at peace finally. Life sure did move on. Her rocking chair, the prayer beads and her memories became prized possessions.
*Paati- Grandmother in Tamil| Featured Image : Pixabay