I am a writer, I told a friend and reader recently, and to a writer every emotion is a trigger. Every living passion becomes the fuel for some dispassionate analytics.
Is this death?
Does this have something to do with the ability to emote dying inside of me?
Not really. It is the ability to transfer that sentiment, into a lasting being. Taking a pain or a funny bone, with loving care, and making it the nucleus of another tangible object, somewhat remote from my diurnal breathing.
Especially pain. Here is this thing about sadness. It doesn’t kill you, not in a single rapid blow, but if you let it harvest a corner of your lung, it erodes you softly. The first time a puppy had died on me, I sat in a corner of the room and wept, innumerable hours. I felt guilty, holding myself responsible for letting him die, for keeping on being alive in a world where he would never be.
I thought I would never get over the emptiness.
He was far too young, it had seemed such a waste. One is supposed to grow up, grow old, taste a full life’s offerings before gently falling off.
There is nothing gentle about death, I discovered many times over; even when a full grown adult passes on, the last few hours or minutes of death throe are traumatic, when every mortal muscle is fighting against the beating heart, and the latter just refusing to stop. The last struggling exhalation is a gut wrenching horror to witness.
I decided, then and there the first time, elephants are sensible beings, and like them, I would go to die away from the watch of my loved ones. There is beauty and grace in dying, when your consciousness is ready, except the biological act of it can be terrifyingly gruesome. Not the best sight you can leave behind in the memory of those that love you.
Someone climbed up on the bed, put an impatient nuzzle through my hair and licked my cheeks as I cried a death. She was heavy, I had to take a moment off from weeping and tell her, “Stop. It’s okay.” Her forepaws were digging into my thigh, I just had to ask her to get them off me. She was a kind if mischievous sprite, and that frown between her eyes, her restless worried expression made me hug her, in gestured affirmation that all was well.
I may never have come out of mourning except it was lunch time and hungry souls had to be fed. Those were the days we had a zoo in the house. Orphaned, aimless, lonely, injured, all found a home with us. Then they got well, grew strong limbs, and staked their rightful claims to corners of the bed, particular pieces of furniture, one or the other human. In no uncertain terms they made it clear, they belonged.
The most forceful elation I have known this life, after I’ve kept watch over someone’s sickbed night and day, for the illness to recede and the unwell life to make a turn for the better.
One of the biggest failings I have known – too many – is to tend to someone who is dying and watch as he or she crossed the line. There is unconditional surrender in that one second, no power in the world will revert the process, all struggle amount to naught. No guilt, no tear, no edge of human medical illumination…nothing more matters.
Lessons in humility are indelibly engraved by a sick patient’s bed.
The longer they live with us, the higher the pile of memories and fathomless wounds. So the older ones, maybe not keened over for wasted purposefulnesses, leave behind their own losses. Sometimes, after medicines have stopped working, you wipe your tear or frown, secure our heart and take them to be put out of their pain, which is the bitterest hit of all. Sometimes, they look you in the eye, thump their tail and make you feel small, vulnerable, despairing, futile. My human existence, pulled to its full measure, falls short of the universe’s definition of my tasks.
“Why me?! Why?”
My God and I are in for a long love-hate quarrel this life.
Try me: no, that is not a dialogue you throw carelessly at destiny when your child’s life is on the line. Arrogance beats a wordless retreat here.
In the end, I have learnt to court death as the only antidote to pain. To life.
I could say I’ve turned stoic, but that is only half truth. I have turned nihilist, yes to the last axon of every neuron of my being. I am waiting, for the earth as I know it to be finished, long after I am several times over (if the theory of reincarnation is to be believed.)
Knowing how to compartmentalize emotions is the sole key to my grudging existence. While I write, as I live, to be dispassionate about my passions has been Life’s prescription for me, to be detached about what I’m most attached to. If I wasn’t half as sensitive, I could be – would be - merrily alive, sans anecdotes antidotes anathemas or the need for antiseptics.
But I am who nature made me, how can I fight that?
What a colourless life it would be, to be born breed die, and not care a fig what was beyond my selfish boundary! Mirthless…me-less, such a being I was not meant to be. Half my troubles would vanish if God, or Nature, or Life, whoever is that practical joker, had just let me be.