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My Mother departs...

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Priya
    To what you have written viz. 'I was amazed that you could write this barely two days after her departure ; that's the time it would take for an absence to sink in, for the void to make itself felt.', you have yourself furnished the answer: 'Such lives are to be celebrated , not mourned.'

    My mother had taken great pains to impress on her children and grandchildren that death was only a station in the long voyage of the soul and the journey continues even thereafter albeit the co-passengers may be different. She was very particular that her own death must set our minds to contemplate on its ramifications until we could see through this mystery one day.

    I was reading in The Hindu a couple of days back how the Black Holes were gobbling up aged stars and yet how the Universe was expanding at an incredible pace. This is perhaps another aspect of our journey through life and death, no matter if we are humans or even the stellar figures. The Besant Nagar crematorium in Chennai makes me very meditative every time I visit it. I am always filled with awe that the boys employed there go about their jobs so bereft of any emotion and think what an admirable attitude to life and death is their passive countenance.

    The greatest tribute we can pay to the dead, particularly those who played a crucial role in shaping our own lives and character, is to envision them continuing their journey in delightful company of kindred souls and as the Boat takes them across the Vaitharani River, how playfully they run their fingers through the serene waters of that mystic River.
    Sri
     
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  2. PriyaKat

    PriyaKat Silver IL'ite

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    Sir,
    I meant i was amazed by your equanimity in the face of grief.

    The passive countenance of the workers in graveyards and crematoria comes, i think, from getting habituated to the drama of death that accompanies the 'merchandise' ( the body) they have to handle in their profession. Its akin to surgeons developing a blind spot to the individuality/ personality of the "cases" they tackle . To them the being on the op.table is same as an opened computer console is to a technician and Death would be just a breakdown of the functioning parts , a " black out", a short circuit. There is no philosophic attainment in this de-sensitised condition. Hangmen, Serial killers, Soldiers are all conditioned similarly.

    The Voyage Beyond, Death as a pit stop, the Vaitharini River, Life Eternal are all matters of Faith. Perhaps such Faith is necessary equipment for people to find solace and strength to go on . Still, it is, at its best, just Pascal's Wager for the ordinary populace.

    I have no quarrel with people who can genuinely believe in it and are Realised enough to treat it as a given . Sad to say, such enlightenment has eluded me so far.

    I can and do mouth platitudes that i know, deep down, are not a conviction. Though I had joked recently in the FB to your delightful article about Mr. Yams and Mr. CG, i have to admit that I see Death as a Finality, the end of a person known and loved.
    I cannot think of my Mother as a disembodied , undefined "Soul" soaring somewhere with kindred souls. My relationship with her is fundamentally visceral because I was in her, of her, from her, a part of her,an extension of her, hived off when the umbelicus snapped. To me ONLY a mother is a true Relation. And she has a particular face, a particular form. After her departure, I will hold on to that particular face and form in a photograph, for I know not what a Soul is. When she leaves, she leaves for good, i will not feel her presence, except, falsely, in my imagination .

    I am unable to make myself live by the convictions of other people regarding a Soul's eternal life. That is why I fear her death and am terrified at the prospect of the irreparable loss. But since it is inevitable I just bite the bullet and continue to habituate myself to the idea, like those doctors and mortuary men , till my mind is dulled into insensate ossification . Unfortunately, so far , it hasn't.

    I will definitely celebrate her life, but will equally definitely, drown in sorrow at her departure when it happens.

    Now that the vision of " flames engulfing her hair and flesh" has shot out of your page and got seared in my mind, clawing ferociously into it frequently, I wish that i develop some belief in the hand-me-down philosophic theories regarding an everlasting Soul.
     
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  3. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Priya
    I concede that the passive countenance of the workers in a graveyard may merely be the effect of getting habituated to the drama of death and a ‘body’ for them is, per se`, merchandise. Still I would rate it as an effective way of combating the trauma of death. This may not be a philosophic attainment but it still helps in overcoming the fear of death. Death is going to be as common an event as birth and marriage in all families and any method by which we can view it with equanimity is desirable. One need not believe in Garuda Purana or the enlightening discussions between Yama and Nachiketas. There may be no life after death at all and it is perhaps as conclusive as the flames that consume the body. For a moment, let us concede that all that is born has to perish sooner or later. There is complete void either before or after this short journey of say a hundred years. Then let us get used to this idea at least and stop looking at the inevitable end as something to be dreaded or feel anguished about particularly when we have no means to control or regulate its occurrence.

    Haven’t you noticed that life goes on despite all the additions and subtractions? People have been dying with such ridiculous regularity after leaving behind them their progenies to mourn them for a while. Whether we develop a philosophical attitude towards death or not, the ruthless Time sees to it that we take it in our strides in a matter of days. As I sit and perform the obsequies of three generations of my ancestors month after month, I never go into the realm of how they might have lived, how loving they were and how much they were missed when it was time for them to quit. What causes this passive attitude in me towards people who were my own flesh and blood and whose genes I carry? This is certainly not the result of any cultivated enlightenment.

    When I place a flower at the picture of my mother and stand before her in prayerful gratitude for giving me this life, I am not overcome with grief. She has laid before me duties to perform and only by discharging them to the best of my ability that I can add glory to her name. I owe this to her. To be able to carry on long after she has left me, I need to have some hard ground to stand on. I may or may not believe in the concept of everlasting Soul but if it helps me by acting as an opiate for my aching senses, there is no harm in trying it.
    Sri
     
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  4. PriyaKat

    PriyaKat Silver IL'ite

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    Sir, I am very grateful to you for showing me such patience . I feel very foolish because I am unable to express exactly what I feel and the words I type are coming out in a form that borders on the ridiculous.

    Yes, people are dying every minute , some violently and before time too, but the world goes on . They call it resilience. Life perpetuates itself in unceasing waves and it makes no sense for us to keep singing the oppaari till kingdom come for the losses we suffer. True,true,true. Grief or fear is not going to make a whit of difference to natural laws. So, how cruel a fate it is that one should love a person to such an extent that the mere prospect of loss can drive one nuts !
    Is the mind to be blamed for such attachment, such unbearable love ? My love for my mother is the oxygen i live by, how weird it feels to think that it also a noxious fume that is making me lose my balance !

    .......Its ok, i guess one can make oneself strong enough to accept facts of life without flinching , with or without help from great seers. If Amputees can continue to live with their loss, I can too, amputated of my mother.

    But this is another matter. I wish I had never read this post of yours, because of that single phrase : " flames engulfing her hair and flesh " ; it just freaked me out. I couldn't shake it off my mind even after logging out. I kept seeing it like a horrid vision, superimposed on my mother , sitting across the dining table that night. And the day after. And the day after. I'm totally spooked. can't take it.

    Sorry to be such a pest. But thank you for bearing with me. I feel much better pouring it out to you . Anyone else ( in realtime ) would have given me a good shake and taken me to a shrink.
     
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  5. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Priya
    I see that this discussion is making you feel more and more miserable. In retrospect, I could have avoided such a candid description of my mum's final journey. I merely mentioned that to impress on the readers that such a gruesome finale did not matter to her a wee bit judging from the curious smile that remained frozen on her face. She would always tell me that 'Agni' is the greatest and the most dependable courier service to Heaven. Be it an oblation to our favourite deity or our mortal remain to be consigned to 'Pithru Loka', Agni is indispensable, she would say.

    Our intense love for the living or dead should never be a fetter from which they'll find it difficult to break free. Your mother is alive and vibrant. Enjoy loving her and being loved by her. No one should sit hunched with the weight of the thought of an impending end. Love in real time is the greatest feeling. Neither the bitter thoughts of the past or the concerns of future should be allowed to ruin it.

    Get this thought out of your mind, Priya and love your mother more than ever before.
    Sri
     
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  6. rgsrinivasan

    rgsrinivasan IL Hall of Fame

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    First of all, my condolences Sir, though I am many years late in offering them.

    When that old rusted trolley
    Moved in, carrying your body,
    I wished I were going with you,
    Am left with an eternal due.

    The days when you fed me,
    And the way you cherished me,
    Are now things of the past,
    Leaving me so aghast.

    Who is now going to be
    Playing with the little ones?
    And who will address me
    The way you did, oh! dear one?

    The one who shaped me fine,
    The one whose face did shine,
    When I did something good,
    Has just left me for good.

    What will tears do?
    My burden is so big.
    If only it were you,
    You will be first to hug.

    I accept that death is
    Inevitable so one day
    I will be put at ease.
    Till then, this pain will stay.

    Sorry Cheeniya Sir. Just felt a bit emotional in this one. We may read so many books and hear so much about death. Accepting that happening to a dear one is always tougher. -rgs
     
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  7. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    My dear RGS
    I have no words to respond to this poignant piece of verse on an event that will never cease to trouble my heart.If I enjoy a semblance of respectability in the society today, I owe it completely to her upbringing. She taught me to keep looking for the lighter side of even problems that appeared insurmountable. Her subtle humour never left her even till her dying day. Her monumental patience will forever remain my bench mark.
    Thank you, RGS for this great tribute to all mothers.
    Sri
     
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  8. Manjureddy

    Manjureddy Gold IL'ite

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    Was browsing through your section, reading posts that caught my fancy and came upon this one. I dont think I have read such a poignant shraddhanjali to a mother , packing a lifetime's worth of emotions into such a short piece , ever. And written so soon after the transition too. what can I say, my dear friend, except that you are a favoured soul to have experienced such fulfilling love and that she was specially blessed to have had a son like you. It is too late to condole , but not too late to salute a son who celebrated and continues to celebrate his Mother's life with such devotion .

    Feel like telling you about the death of a lady who became my mother after her transit. She was not my mother in blood, but in law. She lived with me under the same roof for two decades plus. I knew what food she liked, when her dentist appointment was due, who her friends were. But I never knew " her" . She was a very private and reserved person who spoke little, smiled less, and spent most of her spare time on her own, in pursuits that did not encourage participation. Reading, embroidering and later, Net browsing . Never was there any warmth between us, though there was no hostility as such. We did enjoy movies or dining out as a family , but there were always those curtains, gossamer barriers, between us. She lived her life, I lived mine. we lived with this arrangement that seemed an unchangeable fact of life. Like Islands.

    Then, suddenly, she was gone. Close to two years now.

    Her absence , I discovered with a startle , was not as unobtrusive as her presence had been. It was haunting. Because she began to take a shape totally unfamiliar to me with each nugget of memory presented to me by her friends and relatives during the days immediately after her demise. For instance, I was told she had loaned her entire savings to a poor relative once to meet an emergency . not a word of it had we heard. I discovered she had once confided in her friend that she would have loved to get a stylish haircut and don jeans, but was too bashful about what people at home might say ! My husband's mother ! ? Her cousin told me how she sat with his children once bursting bubble-wrap with glee. My Mother-in-law ?? ....There was more. So many inconsequential things like this , all adding up to a significant heft. She had done , said, read things I 'd never remotely associated with her. And who knows how many more beautiful nuances that made up her persona disappeared with her, undiscovered, lost forever.

    That was when it dawned on me how blind , and uncaring about that blindness too, i had been. I had wasted 20 years just existing with her, never living and sharing. I only saw her cold detachment, but never the sensitivity she had behind it. A monumental lapse. The fact that she herself showed no interest in extending a hand towards me in no way mitigates the indefensibility of my lapse.

    Not once had she ever uttered a hurtful word about my childlessness , though I had robbed her of the fundamental joy of grandmotherhood. Neither did she, a Masters in Chemistry with an eventful career in R&D( paints) , ever let drop a hint of disappointment that her IITian son had chosen to marry me , a college drop -out with a scrape-through school record. Never had she pitied herself for her fate of early widowhood. And never had I given a thought to how she might have coped with that searing loneliness. . The emotional pivot of her life, her only son , was my husband , but she had magnanimously respected the fine lines that separated relationships. All this and more, I had simply swept into the dusty bottom drawers labelled "detachment" and "reserve". When all the while, they were matchless treasures to be displayed with pride and honoured with gratitude........"Sujatha" had written a short story in which an ignorant girl chances upon an uncut diamond , but carelessly tosses it into a muddy pond , thinking its just a rude pebble........

    Nothing can be reversed now. I will have to carry this cross quietly to the end of my days.
    I had always called her "Atthai" . Now-a-days, I refer to her as Amma .

    This may be a feedback irrelevent to your post. But it was healing to get it off my chest . As my friend, you will grant me that comfort I know. Thank you.
     
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  9. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Manju,

    Reading your post here brought a lump to my throat! I just had to respond, sorry Cheeniya sir for intruding!

    Manju, that's life I guess. When all is well and life goes on, we don't know what is lurking behind the nooks and corners. And death happens. All that was behind the facade will either come into the open or remains lost and forgotten forever. Depends on what the person has left for people to reminisce.

    In your mother-in-law's case, she seems to have kept herself very private and has let you into only what she wanted to let you in. Even if you were not the best of friends, you didn't have any animosities either. And, even if there was, how can that matter Manju, you did your best under the circumstances.

    With that, what I want to say to you is good that you wrote about what was burdening your heart. But please don't be too hard on yourself. I am glad she had a good life, her moments of fun and her privacy and her pride. She surely rests in peace.

    You take heart! :)

    L, Kamla
     
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  10. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Manju
    I do not want to believe that the love that I shared with my mother was a one-in-a-million kind. It is there in everyone’s life but in many cases, we have no eyes for the nuances of life and consequently all that love remains deeply buried beneath our façade totally unnoticed as we perform life’s various chores mechanically. This love gets triggered off by an expected event and like a Tsunami it sweeps us all off our feet. In the case of your mother-in-law (I do not want to call her your Mil, a term usually employed in IL in a derisive manner), it was her mortal cessation that has made the beauty of her past existence hit you with a gale force of 10. When my mother passed away, Chitvish who had become a close family friend by then, came rushing to my house and she was startled by my child-like crying, a man well past 66 then! I myself did not know I was doing that until she came near me and asked me to compose myself though to no avail.

    My mother lived with me from 1965 till her death though I have an elder brother. In all these 44 years she might have lived with him for about 6 months in all. It was not because he found it inconvenient but because I was never willing to let her go from me. But as far as mother was concerned, it was no reason for her to love me more or my brother less. She would refer to us both as her two eyes. When she was with me, I hardly spent much time with her. There was no sitting by her side, holding her hands or anything like that. She had such qualities that would make her rank on par with Sri Sarada Devi but we never noticed them during her life time. But after she is gone, we talk about her every day tirelessly. We keep getting phone calls from friends and relatives even today in which some reference would always be made about her greatness.

    When I read through your life with your mother-in-law, it sounds very much like my mother and my wife. My wife took extremely good care of my mother but their bond was extremely mundane and practical. But today, my wife misses her a million times more than I do. Her 100th Birthday will be falling in May next year and my wife and my brother have started planning for celebrating it in a big way! You would have perhaps guessed why I am telling you all this.

    Among all God’s creations the most beautiful thing next only to the feeling of unconditional love is the star-studded night sky. But how many of us give the beautiful sky even a cursory glance on a regular basis? Most of life’s obviously beautiful things are never noticed by us. Everything needs a trigger action. When you are on a pilgrimage or an adventurous trekking through the Himalayas, the unpolluted atmosphere gives you a clear vision of the night sky and you are struck dumb by its beauty. You rue how you never had time for experiencing the beauty of it all your life so far. Be happy that you have got a chance now. Love feels more rewarded when it is nurtured in the heart than through the physical manifestations of it. The love that you feel for your mother in law so intensely is a greater recognition of the quality of relationship that both of you shared.

    Love never fails to triumph; living or dead is a state that never affects its presence. Your switch-over from Athai to Amma is a clear proof of this irrefutable fact.
    Sri
     
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