Tag Archives: death

Death’s Words

From Death in The Book Thief.

Because humans, and the being human, may always a conundrum that even the powerful Death cannot figure out.

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I Thought About Dying

This happened a few months ago, and I thought I should note it down.

For a few moments after I woke up, I sat up in bed and thought about dying.

I saw an image of myself lying motionless on a table-like structure.

The image of people around me. I couldn’t see their faces clearly. Probably suggests that they could be anyone… Not only people I know, but including people I have yet to meet on this journey of life.

I remember the whiteness of it all.

Suddenly, the worries of the world seemed a lot smaller, less heavy, and to a certain extent… Meaningless.

Even though I was technically not present in that image, I felt peace. I felt release. I felt free. If there is still an “I” at that moment.

I can’t be sure if this image was conjured up out of a desire to escape the grind of daily living, or a genuine contemplation on the transience of life.

When I tell people that I occasionally think about the beauty of graveyards and the reality of death, I usually get weird stares and freaked out reactions. Rare and few are those who agree with me and who will sink into comfortable silence, embracing contemplation of the process known as Dying (which is biologically happening with each passing second, by the way).

If the leaves on the maple trees refuse to fall and “die”, will we get the beauty of autumn and winter? Would we get the chance to be inspired by the rebirth of spring?

I hope to fear death less, and see it more as a beautiful part of the phenomenon we know as life.

From Life to Grief

Just before Monday afternoon’s session, I got a sudden call from R, the supervisor.

“I’ve got rather unfortunate news… Susan (not real name) passed away.”

To say I felt shocked is an understatement. The last time I saw Susan (one of the group), a strong-willed woman in her 60s in a motorized wheelchair, she was still in all her loud jewelry and clothes, singing her heart out, cursing and swearing to everyone’s amusement, and playing around with her iPad and cursing and swearing even more when she couldn’t get it to do what she wanted it to do. She apparently had a lung infection, not uncommon for people with spinal chord problems, and that eventually led to pneumonia, and her feelingly untimely death.

“Do you still feel up to having a session with Di?” The supervisor asked. “Yes… As long as she’s willing to come”, came my hesitant reply. In my mind I was wondering what could I do for Di, who was a close friend of Susan? I knew she would be distraught. They had known and lived together in the facility for at least half a decade, and had shared many aspects of their lives together. Losing Susan was going to be a great loss of emotional support and friendship for Di. R was very supportive in giving advice and pointers on how to approach the situation, encouraging me by saying that he trusts me enough to know that I’ll know the best way to go about it.

Finally, they arrived, we went into our room, and I sat down in front of Di. She spoke quietly, tears filling her eyes.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “I know I have to let her go, because if I keep wishing she’d come back, she can’t go in peace…”

We continued talking for a while. I knew there was nothing I could say that would take away the pain, and this quote came to mind, kindly shared by the Comrade a few days back:
I tried to do that, just being there inside the pain, with her, as close as possible. We then played an improvisation on the keyboard, a peaceful, lyrical attempt at depicting the journey of life and how we’re never sure when each journey will end, but how we’re fortunate to meet our friends and loved ones along the way, making our journey that much more meaningful and memorable.

As the last note faded away, she whispered, with a hint of tearfulness: “It’s a pity we have to stop.”

We sat in silence for a while more.

“The music… Is able to take me away for a while”, she continued. I added, after some contemplation: “Yes… It reminds us that there is something bigger than ourselves”, thinking of all the times when I turned to musical expression to fulfill what the world couldn’t do for me.

“Well… Time will heal all wounds, won’t it?” Di spoke with a sad smile.

“But sometimes we don’t want the wounds to heal completely, do we? We want something left… to remind us of the one we loved.”

“… Oh, yes, that’s true.” And she said that in a more uplifted tone than she had since the beginning of the session. She turned to half-smile at me. “Thank you for that.”

We ended the session shortly after, with her saying that she did feel lighter. But I know the process of grieving is a complex one, never a one-track route. There will be days when one feels that the pain has passed, that life can finally move on, and there are days when the realization of losing that loved one hits you mercilessly all over again, and one feels thrown back into the depths of never-ending sorrow.

I feel bad that I won’t be able to see her over the next few weeks (due to the upcoming hospital placement), at this time when she needs the support and therapy more than ever. I suggested that she try to put her emotions to words, and perhaps we could work on creating soundscapes in the second half of the year. She seemed agreeable, and I hope it will be something that could help her cope over the next few weeks.

Praying for strength for Di to get through this period, and for wisdom to do what is right and best for her.

Guilt

I remember her singing, and accompanying her on the keyboard. I remember thinking that she had a relatively thin voice, but sweet and had emotional depth. I remember at least 3-4 of the songs she used to sing. I remember the way she would squint her eyes when the song got too high for her, and she would ask if we could take it at a lower key. I remember thinking of her as a gentle soul. I remember her never shouting. Only stating her points vehemently. With passion and conviction. I remember her dedication to her family and her sincerity to everyone around. I remember thinking that she’s one of the nicest aunties I see every Sunday. I remember how Human she was.

Then, she stopped coming for a few months.

Then we heard: she’s in critical condition.

Then yesterday: she’s passed away.

To say that we are shocked is an understatement. We did not even know she had cancer. After all, people come and go all the time. Sometimes they disappear for months due to busy work periods. Sometimes they don’t turn up for an entire year to spend weekends preparing their child for national exams. No one is obliged to turn up every week, maybe except the musicians. I guess we all just assumed that she was busy with work. And because she wanted to keep her condition secret, no one ever knew.

No one knew, and no one questioned.

I think that’s the source of our guilt. As S mentioned, we all noticed her absence, but we all just assumed. No one bothered to find out, or ask. We just assumed.

I must have slept for less than 2 hours last night, tossing and turning with that heavy feeling in my heart. Then my alarm rang, and I actually felt liberated from the chore of trying to fall asleep. I switched on my phone, and there they were: all the expressions of grief and anger at the fact that we had not been able to offer any support earlier. And that heavy feeling in me swelled forth into a flood of tears again.

Do you know what makes me feel more guilty?

The fact that I will feel guilty now, the fact that I will cry for her now, the fact that we will offer our condolences and best wishes to her family now, and after a few days, weeks, months, she will fade into the recesses of our memory. The fact that the thought of her will bring pangs of sorrow every now and then, but even those will fade with time. The fact that I will be able to move on with my life, but her daughter and husband will live the rest of their lives in the shadow of her absence.

And the fact that even this guilt will fade away.