“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin
The death of a near or dear one is always very painful. If the person dies relatively young or passes away suddenly, the shock is even greater. If the person dies after a protracted illness, the anguish runs deep. Either ways, rightly did the Nobel laureate, Thomas Mann, say, “a man’s dying is more his survivor’s affair than his own.”
This week saw the passing away of two community stalwarts – Zarir M. Bhathena and Jamsheed G. Kanga. While the former was a sitting trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), the latter was a former BPP trustee. Both were men of substance and shared a common interest – love for the community. Zarir was a Chartered Accountant and a Builder while Jamsheed was an IAS officer and former Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai. A quality common to both was their caring nature and humility. Both took their personal relationships with family and friends, as also their professional responsibilities very seriously and this is what real men are made up of – passion, devotion and a tough exterior covering a soft interior.
Console To Cheer…
I often ask myself, is sympathy, or even empathy, all that we can offer to the bereaved? Does offering condolence soothe the aching heart? Besides, what are the words we generally tend to whisper in the ears of a grieving spouse, or a distraught son or daughter, who has just lost a pillar that held up his or her life? Usually we say, “It is God’s will and there is little we can do about i.t. But, do such clichés bring comfort or actually cause more discomfort?
Honestly, one cannot change what happens. But one can certainly take charge of one’s response to whatever happens. We are all mortal and death is the only certainty of life. Yet, immortality is to live one’s life doing good, and leaving a lasting legacy. This is what those in grief should be reminded about – that the departed has carved his or her name is so many living and throbbing hearts, instead of one cold tombstone.
In the words of Anne Lamott: “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly — that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
Bitter Or Better?
What may appear as ‘misfortune’ today, may seem an important milestone in the future. It is important to accept with grace and fortitude the challenges that may be strewn in the pathway of one’s life. These challenges may actually help one to grow in strength and gain wisdom. The choice is between becoming a better individual or a bitter individual. The choice is left to the individual.
Death is about leaving a legacy which is etched into the minds and hearts of others and the stories that they share about the departed. In the words of Thomas Campbell, “To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die.” When people we love physically disappear from our lives, our only option is to seek comfort in the memories of our time together and to be grateful for all the good things that happened. It’s difficult to move past the pain of loss, but happy memories do keep our hearts warm for many cold and gloomy winter nights.
Finite Disappointment V/s Infinite Hope!
To all those who have been recently bereaved and feel bereft and distraught, may I say, that we do not necessarily have to rely on memories to recapture the spirit of those we have loved or lost. They live within our souls in some perfect sanctuary, which even death cannot destroy. Please accept ‘finite disappointment’, but never lose ‘infinite hope’!
To the Bhathena and the Kanga family, I offer my ‘consolation to cheer’. Neither Zarir nor Jamsheed have really died. They have simply made a transition, or to put it more simply, “moved on”. Their spirit survives in their legacy of their labours of love that they have left behind for posterity. Family and close friends may perhaps draw comfort and strength from the following verse:
“If I should die, and leave you here awhile, Be not like others sore undone, who keep Long vigils by the silent dust and weep. For my sake, turn again to life, and smile. Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine. Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine, And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!”
“If I should die, and leave you here awhile,
Be not like others sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust and weep.
For my sake, turn again to life, and smile.
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!”
Indeed, one of physical life’s inexorable tenets is, nothing lasts forever. All good things come to an end. Physical life ends, sooner or later. And yet those who survive must find new meaning to life and make a new beginning.
Zarir and Jamsheed have earned their well-deserved sleep. But their survivors have promises to keep and miles to go before they sleep!