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My closest encounter with Death

Today is Buddha Purnima. I cannot stop thinking about Pappa. He was the only person I knew who naturally followed all the teachings of Buddha without ever reading about him or getting initiated into any of the meditation shibrs. He was the most amazing human being along with being the best father. Since December, I was so engrossed in eliminating his illness that I did not even envisage losing him, as a possibility at that stage. I am a fighter who gets his way through all vicissitudes with several back up options handy for any situation. Sadly, I never had a back-up plan for Pappa’s demise. My battle against Pappa’s cancer dismantled a lot of my belief systems. It painfully exposed my inconsequential place in the grand scheme of things.

On that ominous morning of 23rd April, I was the first one to register that he is no more. I didn’t know whether to be angry with God or wallow in anguish or appear to be strong in order to go through the rites & rituals. It was as if I couldn’t access any of my emotions. The void he left behind was so humongous that I could barely cry.

Family and friends kept consoling me that my father was finally out of pain and suffering; that he was in a better place. Some advised to get immersed in work and some suggested to take a break to grieve over him. Some asked me to talk it out and some recommended to just feel the grief in solitude. One of the well-wishers even advised that grieving was not right as his soul was present at home upto the 13th day of his demise. I was told that didn’t have the right to traumatize his soul by grieving over his death. I couldn’t comprehend any of this.

I was inundated with so many calls from well-wishers. They expressed their solidarity; they genuinely tried to unburden me, but strangely amidst all this, I felt extremely lonely. It dawned upon me that my grief is mine alone to deal with, and despite the best intentions, no one can share that with me. This grief arrives in waves and is ironically juxtaposed with moments of joy. Sensing my predicament, my dear wife Kavyal explained to me the 5 stages of loss – Denial, Anger, Depression, Negotiation and Acceptance. She mentioned it will take time to go through these stages till I was able to overcome my misery. To my surprise, these stages aren’t even sequential. The moment I felt I was into Acceptance, I would go back to Denial. This seemed like a never-ending closed loop rather than a straight passage through grief! All my knowledge of psychology went down the drain when grief struck; all the benevolent advice from loving well-wishers fell on deaf ears as my mental faculties had been numbed.

While I was struggling to make sense of my trauma, I realized that grief is a very self-centred emotion. Was I grieving over his death or was I distressed over losing my father? Wasn’t I just crying for my loss? Despite discerning this utter selfishness, the waves of grief still hit me on a daily basis. When Pappa’s patients ask ‘doctorsahib kab ayenge?’, I still cannot bring myself to respond ‘kabhi nahin’. I so miss Pappa when I take my multivitamins, when I eat his favourite foods, when I play the game we used to play together, when I go to places we used to frequent together….Daily, I sit on his desk, just to feel his presence. I am not sure when shall I make peace with his demise.

Nevertheless, I pray for him daily to be happy, wherever he is. I feel his presence all the time and I know that he blesses me. I am most fortunate to be his son. This is one aspect about my life, I will never change for anything in the world. May God always shower His blessings on Pappa. Om Shanti

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