Thursday, May 15, 2008


Death is a curious thing... life presents us with several ways of confronting this inescapable truth, and many opportunities to prepare for it... but somehow it's near impossible to anticipate completely what effect it will have on you.

My grandmother passed away a few months ago. Her already deteriorating health suddenly plummeted faster than anyone could have predicted and she was gone in a matter of two weeks. I managed to meet her only once before she left, a strange experience in which she taught me one of life's greatest lessons while lying prone and speechless in the ICU.

I flew across the country to see her one last time, because the doctors had indicated that there was little that could be done to ease her suffering any further. While preparing to visit her, and on the flight, my mind brimmed with a thousand memories of her love and the care that she lavished on me... and throbbed with a searing regret of how many times I had lost the opportunity of spending some time with her... an opportunity that I would never get again. I clung to her image in my mind, begging anything and anyone that might be listening to keep her for me, give me a chance to meet her at least once... restore her to health etc.

She lay on the hospital bed, wired to the complicated lot of devices that ICU patients have to bear with. Her face and body were bloated with toxins that had permeated her blood, her breath came in strained gasps and her limbs lay paralysed, inert. A weak inarticulate sound escaped her lips involuntarily as she stared at me, without expression. That was when it struck me... as quick and potent as lightning...

My grandmother, the being that I love so much was not really that body. The body lying on the hospital bed was all but devoid of her consciousness and intelligence. In the absence of that, it would be just a shell... just like one of the great big kaftans she used to wear out and then exchange for another. The Being that brought me up and showered me with love and care was was much more than that body. The body was a vessel but the love that came was more - sort of like a the relationship that a tap has with water.

The Being that was  Nani wanted to be free and move onto the next leg of its great journey. It, could never be harmed, could never be ill, could not be broken. Those things happened to the body - like the wear and tear that happens to clothes we wear for a long time The body remained alive only because of the life support system that forced oxygen through it... Death, to this Being would be little more than the experience of waiting in an airport. It was time to take flight...

It was in that moment that I learnt to let go. I let go of the mental grappling hooks with which I was clinging to her image. I let go of the attachment to her physical form, because for the first time I truly understood what Nani really was (or IS)... that we are all more than the bodies that we see in the mirror. My thoughts clung to a tangible form while my real love was for an intangible spirit. And that's when it struck me again... my love had ALWAYS been for the intangible. While 'alive', my grandmother's love had been expressed/ manifested through a body, but the body itself was never the source of that love. The love came from her spirit, her consciousness that connected with mine. And that is indestructible and ever present... I feel it even as I type these words and I felt it even in the ICU, as I thought about what I've expressed so far. She never needed a body to love me... love is much much greater than the medium through which we choose to channel it.

And now, I realise... I still love my grandmother very much. While sometimes I still feel sad about her demise, I know that my grief is for the destruction of the physical form to which I had grown attached. Sooner or later, that grief will wear itself out, but my connection to Nani will endure because it does not belong in space and's bigger than that...