Ever since my parents both passed away in their mid-fifties, I’ve had a problem in dealing with the news of deaths of people who I think are past normal “life expectancy”. Despite my best efforts to control myself, and try look respectable, I begin to laugh uncontrollably, especially while reporting the news to someone. People might think I might be irresponsible, or a crack, but I like to think I’ve attained a higher plane of existence.
We need to accept that we are mortal. That everyone has their day, a day when they are going to die. It is only a question of when. So when people who have led “full lives” go, and relatively painlessly at that, I think it is only a good thing. Yes, at every stage of your life, there is something to look forward to, and irrespective of how long you’ve lived people will still count those things you missed thanks to your passing (say a grand-daughter’s graduation, or the birth of a great-grand-kid or whatever). Unless you live a completely lonely and boring life there will always be regrets. But looking at it from the point of inevitable mortality lessens the pain.
I was thinking about this while my grandfather-in-law’s last rites were being performed yesterday. He was seventy seven when he passed away late on Saturday evening. He had four children, all grown up and with grown up happy families of their own. Just over a year back, he had witnessed the wedding of his eldest grandchild (my wife). His wife is in pretty good health, and will continue to get a pension (since he had worked for the government). And he had not been in the best of health ever since I saw him two years back, requiring assistance to walk and largely confined to his house. My only regret then, was that, he had to undergo a great deal of suffering in the last few months (he was suffering from cancer which had been diagnosed quite late), and died a painful death.
You might be thinking here that I’m an ingrate and that I wish that people die once they cross a certain age. That is simply untrue. I don’t ever wish for people’s deaths. I only wish for longer healthy and happy lives. It is only that I recognize the mortality of human life, and don’t really grieve when the eventuality happens for someone who I think hasn’t died prematurely.
Of course I understand the sentiments of the bereaved family. Irrespective of the person’s age and health, I know it is only natural for the families to grieve, and that they invariably have a huge task adjusting to the new void in their lives. The fact, though remains, that death is inevitable. And unless you are like the Bangalore based doctor family which collectively committed suicide last week (a most unfortunate and unnecessary way to die), it is inevitable that some people will pre-decease others, and the latter are bound to grieve the former, and go through considerable pain adjusting to a new life.
I know this might be too heavy an argument to appeal to people who have been bereaved, and their emotion is likely to overpower the argument, but my only hope is that they soon accept the new reality and rebuild their lives around the new (but ultimately inevitable) void. It’s easier said than done but it has to be ultimately done.