Trigger Warning: Suicide, death, mental health; please close the page and do not read further if you are dealing with any of these issues.
Death, a term that evokes fear, has held a curiosity for me from a very young age. It was never the morbid but a romanticised version of death. During my adolescent years, this curiosity manifested in the form of trying to end the pain of childhood trauma with obviously unsuccessful attempts at it (otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this, would I? 😉)
In the last couple of years, I have lost some friends and family and the last year has left no one untouched by death. Along with the pain of loss, I have experienced envy at these souls for having escaped the cycle of grief. My first brush with this phenomenon, that life was not all that is there, was at the tender age of five when I found my paternal grandfather’s lifeless body in the wee hours of the morning.
I am immortality and I am death;
I am what is and what is not.Bhagwad Gita
This year, I lost my maternal grandfather and the last words he spoke to me, still ring in my ears. Both of them were the closest people to me and the only ones who genuinely loved me, so it was my maternal grandfather’s passing away that finally flipped a switch inside me and threw me on the other side of this romanticised version that I had been holding.
In Buddhism, it is encouraged to contemplate death as a way of life. Memento Mori, a stoic philosophy sets it as a reminder of death’s inevitability. Even the widely famous Game of Thrones series keeps giving this reminder in the form of a formal greeting – Valar Morghulis.
Death, if contemplated upon correctly, without wanting it to end the pain, can be a companion of immense curiosity. It is the only thing that is certain, outside of every fickle experience called life. So why must we not see upon death with more reverence than life itself?
If death can fly, just for the love of flying, what might not life do, for the love of dying?Malcolm Lowry
Once the threshold of this fear is crossed, life is illuminated. Colours become vivid, surroundings seem livelier, and the world more alive. It is the very realisation that the next moment could be last, that opens up the visual field. The appreciation of life comes because of its mortality. Or, as it is wholesomely captured in the theme of the movie The Fountain – Death is the road to Awe!
The fleeting quality of life fuels the awe and wonder in observing it closely with utmost devotion. Contemplating upon my own mortality as a ritual every day has diminished the suicidal thoughts and instead made me focus on all the experiences as a blessing until this very moment.
Death sits on my left shoulder as a companion (Maya on the right one as another) and whispers life’s secrets when I feel despair or heartbreak. It is a loyal friend that never wavers, because what could death take away that life already hasn’t? All it really takes is the courage to look death in the eye and say – “let’s play with life while we have a chance”.