Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Mortality

| 3 Comments

The problem with being surrounded by a family of doctors is that they (not homogeneously) approach death differently. They see it more often than moat people do. It happens on their watch and… I guess they need to…deal with it differently. It’s difficult to talk with them about it, because… They have a perspective on it that someone like me will never have. They have this instinct that tells them someone who is sick is about to die when (in the eyes of non-medical ppl) they start to get better.

But that’s not what this post is about. I never really had to deal with death too much when I was younger. I never lost a close family member until i was much older. I did lose quite a few friends close to my age through accidents, and a couple who were slightly older from heart attacks.

Last night I had a dream…and I think it’s influenced by some events in my real life and in some fiction I am reading. It made me think back of a lot of things…

I remember the day my cousin (we were maybe 7 or 8 at the time) asked my mom about what happens after death. I loved my mom’s reply, “I’ve never died before so I wouldn’t know”. A more accurate response might have been “no one has ever communicated with someone who has died, so no one knows”…but anyway. Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with life after death. There is a bit of theorizing in Islam (tho i don’t think most of it’s mainstream) about life after death. But I never cared for it. I never cared to know it or hear it. I just choose to believe I can talk to my dad after he is gone…and I only need to believe he can hear me, I don’t really need evidence or proof because it’s irrelevant

Because for me, the key thing we know about death is how it affects the living. And those are the people we need to focus on coz once someone dies…there is nothing within your control anyway.

I had a friend who once said he wished he would die before his parents. It’s i think a cultural statement but it is awful. Who would wish that torture upon their parents of having to watch their child die before them? (my paternal grandmother lost a son and daughter in their twenties to an accident and leukemia – i can’t begin to imagine what that was like).

So when someone dies I think of those who survive them and that suffering that we can see clearly and what it implies for them. And I don’t think I am saying anything deep here, but I never feared my death as much as I do now, because I am afraid of what would happen to my daughter. And I think of every child who loses a mother when they are young and wonder how they survive it. How do young mothers plan for this possibility? It hurts to even think about, but some people are living it. Some people are children living without moms. Some moms know they are dying and need to think about what will happen to their kids. It’s nothing like losing a dad (many people close to me have lost their dads while they were young – it’s devastating but not in the same way).

I don’t think I started really thinking about death at all until I lost both my grandmothers within a month of each other, then only 3 years later my dad, then a year later my uncle, and suddenly…it’s right there… The possibility of it. It is different from losing friends because losing a friend doesn’t stare you in the face as often unless you let it (which I do because I want to remember each one and pray for them)…and still we forget how fragile life is and forget to show people we love how much we love them every moment of every day.

3 Comments

  1. Really beautiful reflection Maha. You know I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I keep meaning to write my rhizo death post but I’m not sure it will come now. Since I have no children I often think of my little creations (my writing, photography, etc.) as births – little pieces of me that will stick around for a little while after I am gone. I fear that rhizo death post may be stillborn which is sad but in some way fitting with the whole thing.

    “The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.” ~ Earnest Becker, Denial of Death

    I’m not sure I completely agree with Becker here. I think he is right-on up till the end of this quote (which is a nice tight summary of his thinking on this imo). I’m not sure that we must shrink from being fully alive – I think that there is another option. For me it is to stare into that need to be free of an anxiety of death and with the anxiety itself and sit with it. Turn it over and examine it. Strive to live that life that is fully alive purposefully so that you can awaken that anxiety – to examine it. It is terrifying actually but that anxiety is not good or bad; it just is – and that is okay. I’m still learning about it but I think there is more to be gained by facing it than turning away.

    Jason Silva says we defy entropy with our films and our pomes. I think he is of the same thought process here as I am with my little births meaning that we create little parts of ourselves that will continue on with our art and creative pieces. And while I have a hard time disagreeing with Jason, I think we also defy death by simply living that full life despite the fear of death. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb-OYmHVchQ

  2. “…and still we forget how fragile life is and forget to show people we love how much we love them every moment of every day.”

    Yes we do. I get what you said about viewing your own death differently once you have a child. I agree also that our experience of the death of those closest to us accelerates as we mature, and at some point it no longer feels as foreign and we can’t feel immune any more. Suicide is what I feel most anxiety about, and it doesn’t get any better thinking about that possibility. I think my own thoughts about death are slightly obsessive, and I should focus more on the possibilities of the present. Taking breaks from routine, holidays, even illness, can help provide time out and time to reflect about what’s most important to us, and what our goals might be.

    I admire people who accept death philosophically. I’m sure I’m still in denial.

  3. strange thoughts–thinking about death I mean.. Just like you I only started feeling the fear of death after I had my daughter. Damien Hirst has a piece titled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (http://www.damienhirst.com/the-physical-impossibility-of), maybe it’s impossible to grasp it, I don’t know.. My grandparents are still alive in my mind..

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