Conversation with Life about Death

In Conversation with Life about Death

It was a frigid morning, cold and damp. The trees were hushed, the meadow was sleepy in its wakefulness, and the sky only parted half-heartedly against the stubborn sun. It was the kind of morning where you held a steaming cup and stared straight into nothingness. Such sunrises don’t need company or conversation. They come with their own romanticized morbid charm to tell you nothing in particular about your existence.

I could not contain myself indoors in that ashy gloom and tiptoed to the patio, mindful not to disturb the piercing silence. I sat there on the rattan sofa with oversized cushions, tucking my feet under the woolly throw and curling like a cat. I was still staring blankly, enjoying the passivity, when suddenly and surreptitiously she appeared. I was taken aback at the unwelcome hello; my plans of being a quiet cat were thwarted and seemed to slip away. I knew that when she came, she loved not silent company but to jabber inside my head unchecked.

I snapped at her nastily, “I wasn’t expecting you nor did I invite you.” She gave me that ‘don’t you know any better’ smile and chuckled, “Sweetheart, Death and I do not have a reputation for seeking invites. We do our own bidding.” That quite shut me up and indeed sunk me in gratitude that it was only Life with her “default thinking mode” visiting me. In Cartesian terms, I was thinking and hence, existing for yet another dawn.

We sat there a while sombrely, still holding the nothingness in my irises, when Life crept in and whispered, “What if it was not I but Death who had visited you today?”

“What do you mean?” I looked at her puzzled and irritated. I wasn’t ready for this unasked philosophical dialogue. She grimaced at my sulkiness, “Don’t forget that I revisit you fresh from moment to moment, which creates this illusion of unbroken longevity. But you know about Death, she visits you only once in a lifetime.” “So tell me, dearie, what if Death was at your doorstep today?” she repeated with a wink.

“I am not ready to die,” I replied sheepishly. She chortled with a mock, “Is anyone ever?”

“I don’t know about that. But I am certainly not, not yet!” I spoke emphatically. She softened, “And what do you want to stay for?”

I took a moment to answer this. Now that we were chatting anyway, I thought I would rather have a candid and comfortable conversation with Life and about her twin ‘Death’. 

“You know, I have always feared ‘Death’. It is one thing that scares me because you have been so beautiful and bountiful, and I am attached to everything that you bring. I do not want to give it up yet. I still want to enjoy all the maya of this lifetime” I poured out in a single breath.

She smiled knowingly for she knew she had been very generous to me. But she interjected, “And you think nothing will ever alter? You won’t ever experience hardships, suffering, or sickness… that everything will remain rosy forever?”

I was still looking straight ahead; the frosty morning had thawed a bit and there was an ever-so-gentle sunbeam that warmed me both inside and outside.

“My dear Life,” I said calmly, “I am slightly wiser now to know that things will inevitably change. Most of it will. My vanity, my thoughts, my emotions, my situations, my attachments, my body, nothing will remain the same. After some sincere introspection, this truth is as clear as summer daylight.”

“Then what is the fear?” she questioned unassumingly. “Death is just a transition to that change, a change of setting, a change of relationships, a gateway to another life. And it is the only most certain and irrevocable phenomenon going to occur for every one of you” she consoled.

“There is nothing to refute in what you say yet you don’t understand,” I said somewhat apologetically. I felt unease even as I spoke these words, “Death brings a drastic change in its sweep along with all the other changes. Sometimes overturning people’s lives in a moment, leaving them helpless, lost, and inconsolable.”

Life looked at me quizzically squinting her keen eyes, “Wait a second, you are confusing me. One thing is beyond my comprehension. You know Death is inescapable and feel that it can be tumultuous in its aftermath. Simultaneously, most of you seem to have such fondness for your lives, then why wouldn’t you live a little fuller, laugh a little louder, love an ounce over while I keep visiting you every morning? Why would you march from Life to Death being angry, nasty, greedy, and vindictive?”

Before I could interrupt, she asked me another trick question, “What are you worried about really, Death or Life?”

“We are worried about both” I guess, “Worried of losing Life and scared of embracing Death.”

“What a sad state of affairs,” she said disdainfully as if denouncing the entire human race battling its predicament. “But what do you mean by losing life, what does it imply?” she asked a minute later.

“Well…” I stammered still gathering my thoughts while she jumped in, “I’ll tell you what losing life implies. It means that you can no longer indulge your senses, your mind, and your heart in that familiar setting that you cling to. And because you so love this indulgence, are so attracted, and attached to the people and things in it, that the idea of losing yourself or losing those people to Death unravels your core.”

I absorbed her words impassively; they were plain and true. However, I had my doubts, “But there are depressed, lonely, sick, and poor people who all want another breath of air. What can they be scared to lose in such a life? What keeps them tethered to a morose existence except some who do end it?”

She laughed loudly as if I had made some half-wit statement. But realizing my discomfiture she spoke placatingly, “Why don’t you answer your own question?”

I didn’t have an answer but I didn’t mind attempting. “Perhaps we are all attached to our familiarity, and on the other side of Death lies the great unknown. So, we just clutch to what we know and have even if it is not enough” I replied after some thought.

 “You are quite right to suggest that humans are habituated to their own narratives even when they are far from pleasant. Funnily, they repeat it often as if to keep the pain alive and enjoy wallowing in the pool of misery. But there may be another reason why they harbour the desire to live despite the inadequacy. What you consider a ‘morose life’ is simply ‘life’ for them, as it might be a ‘glamorous life’ for you but merely ‘life’ for someone else. What you might call a ‘quiet life’ or an ‘adventurous life’ or a ‘boring life’ is just ‘life’ for the one living it. The adjectives are inventions of your filtered perspective which have no purpose.” I was quite flabbergasted at her reasoning.

Meanwhile, the sun was eavesdropping on our conversation through slitted beams and lighting up the patio in a still gossamer glow as if echoing the ambient mood.  

After a pause, she resumed tenderly, “The only purpose of my visit to you every morning is that you exhaust me, live me wholly, and seize me completely irrespective of it being labelled ‘mundane’ or ‘mesmerizing’ by someone else. If I look out for you, you owe it to me to spend me most joyously and judiciously in every waking moment. Don’t waste me in living your grudges and frantic hoarding. Don’t rely on another day to enjoy me because you never know when my unpopular twin will show up instead. And in that moment, all I want of you is, “When Death finds you may it find you alive.” – African proverb.

She had draped me in a different sort of shawl by then. A shawl that hugged me with subdued zest, brimming calm, and a deep respect for Life.

Photo by Albin Biju:

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