Sunday, January 16, 2011

Loss and Relationships

As always I had called to speak to my parent’s on Friday night. It was Saturday morning in India. From the tone of my mother’s voice I realized that something was wrong.. She however was assuring me that everything was fine. I goaded her until she finally told me that she had terrible news for me. I asked if she, my father and my sisters were all right. She assured me that they were fine but that my cousin who was in his mid thirties had passed on. It was my father’s older brother’s child. In fact my father’s older brother himself passed on when this child was a toddler.

My father’s family is very close knit and it includes the extended family as well. I have vague memories of my uncle as I was very young when he passed on. I do remember though that he was extremely mild mannered and the most gentle soul I ever knew. Unfortunately he was not as smart as my father. My father and his two cousins were overachievers and therefore were very successful. My uncle on the other hand barely finished high school and didn’t graduate from college. Unfortunately he made a lot of wrong decisions, which I remember used to pain my father. It was especially so as my father didn’t have his parents then. My father always tried to help him but somehow no matter how much you try to help others, it is unsuccessful unless the recipient takes it upon themselves to improve their life. When my uncle passed on, I remember how my father had cried to mourn the loss of his loved one. He must have thought that he was alone but he wasn’t. I, being very nosy, had snooped and was shocked to see this display of raw emotion from a person who always internalizes his emotions. That incident is etched in my memory.

All through my life, I always felt affection for my uncle’s family. I always thought that this particular branch of my father’s family was cursed. After my uncle’s passing his widow didn’t keep in touch with us. My uncle was previously married but had lost his two wives and this was his third marriage. The children from his first two marriages kept in touch with us. They were much older than my sisters and I but we had established a strong bond with them. The children from this marriage however weren’t close to us at all. That being said, I feel really sorry for the mother who lost not only her husband but her child. It is tragic but none of her children survived. All of them went into adulthood and died one after the other. She has outlived all of them. I cannot but imagine what must be going through her mind!

The last time I saw this cousin was 20 years ago when my older sister got married. He was very artistic. He had very shyly showed me his painting and I was surprised to know that he was left handed like me! So there was a feeling of affection because we are of the same blood but no memory beyond this one. Yet I feel sad for the loss of life. I feel sad for the hardships that he endured in his short life. As per my Hindu beliefs I do realize that it is everyone’s karma. They say that when you are born, it is predetermined as to what your life is going to be. However I believe in the law of probability that nothing is set in stone. Life gives you options and you make those choices. The choices you make and the end results is what your destiny eventually turns out to be. I think fate cruelly took away this life even before he got to live it.

I would like to end this post by quoting two verses or couplets (called shlokas in Sanskrit ; the liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism) from the Bhagavad Gita related to death:

"The soul is never born nor dies at any time. Soul has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. Soul is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. Soul is not slain when the body is slain."

"As a human being puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."


Sanjay said...

As I read your post from the start, I read with a bit of trepidation. For the past week I have been calling India at a certain time, and when I have not, I have been hoping that my phone would not ring.
I was relieved that it was not your folks, and also saddened that it was someone so young who had to go at so untimely a moment. When a child is lost before their parent, that is always the worst thing that a parent has to go thru.
I have seen it up close and so in a lot of ways I could connect to what you said.
I am glad that the words from the Geeta helped.
Thank you for sharing this. I hope there is peace for those affected.

Sai said...

Thanks Sanjay for your condolences.

Yes it is indeed tragic for a parent to outlive their children. I feel bad for this lady because she has outlived all her kids!