On the morning of the 23rd, we got a call from Death.
He had come to take one of ours, too early. We pleaded and begged—he has young sons, a wife, and an old father. Show us some mercy.
He didn’t budge. I saw the ice-cold eyes. They were deep and dark, like the bottom of the ocean. I saw a smirk lurking on his lips and he was looking at all of us with disdain. We yelled and shouted—he was unsympathetic, unmoving, heartless. We all felt betrayed by life, by the power above. It wasn’t fair.
As we entered the crematorium, I was astonished to see Death standing in the far corner, sobbing. He looked old and ripped and craggy. I was enraged beyond words. How dare he. How dare he come here and insult us like this.
Just as I swallowed my rage and looked questioningly at him, he yelled back with exasperation, “Do you think I want this?”
As if reading my mind, he continued, “Do I want to be here to see these kids and old father and all of you, grieving? You force me to do this.”
We force you? What are you saying?
“Who are you, and what do you want?” I yelled back.
“I am Death. I am a reminder of your mortality. I have to do this to remind you to live,” he said calmly.
Remind us to live?
I was terrified of the notion that we are not living.
“Yes!’’ he said, “I see hundreds of people coming here every day, doing the last rites for their loved ones. In that particular moment, they all resolve to be better human beings, to call up an old friend, to let go of a grudge they’ve held for years—but I ask you today, how many actually do it? The moment they step out, they dive back deep into their oceans of pettiness and ego, of identities they have clung to.”
I contemplated my response because what he said made sense, but I was not ready to let go of anger just yet. My sense of grief and sorrow was too much for me to bear. I felt wronged by the world, by life, by pain. I didn’t deserve this.
Sensing my hesitation, Death looked at me with pity.
This time, I sensed a father looking at a child who was feeling lost.
He said, “Life is like a bubble. It is exactly like the soap bubbles that you would blow in your childhood. When the light of life falls on it, it reflects back the colours of the rainbow, and then it bursts the next second. You have to make the best of that fleeting moment in which it exists before it merges back with its creator.”
He continued, “All you do is try and find logic and reasoning. You question everything, and you should, but don’t expect answers right away. It doesn’t work that way. You might find some answers, and you might not. In this circle of life and death, no one wins. The only thing you can do is to ‘let go‘ and move on with what you have right now, having trust that the answers will be revealed in due time.”
Tears were rolling down my eyes. I was sobbing and shaking. The futility of my own selfish, ego-centric desires was hitting me hard. Words did not matter anymore. The fact that I could cease to exist at this very moment without having a chance to say goodbyes, without letting go of my hurt and anger, without having a chance to say sorry and hug people who mattered, was not easy to sink in.
Life is not mere words—we use huge words such as sacrifice, ego, relationships, and whatnot, but we forget our core values of compassion, empathy, and love. We don’t sacrifice anything; we do it to satisfy our egos.
I am aware now that what’s inside me wants to be joyful, vibrant, and inclusive. It wants to love.
Life is meant to make us better people—the situations and circumstances all come to make us grow and evolve. Rather than grudging them, let’s use them to create a stronger self, maybe a better friend, a better son or daughter or husband or wife.
So when my time comes—
I hope I go peacefully, after having lived life to the fullest of my potential.
I hope I don’t have any regrets.
I hope I have forgiven and sought forgiveness.
I hope to move forward, and not look back. And even if I look back, I hope to see a life full of joy, love, and laughter.
Dear Alok, you will be missed—for your ever-present smile, your gentle nod, and the silent toast across the room.