It is as if I am trying to see if pain is something u can really step back from.
My mom had managed four deaths in a very saintly fashion, and seen the fifth (of my dad when only 52) with a spiritual strength I always feared I lacked.
I recall how she nursed her dad, who had a painful journey towards death -- he had fallen down in the toilet one day, and slowly suffered his way to death. Gangrene had set in his legs and he would scream and moan in deep pain, throughout the day and into the night. She would wipe his wounds gently, clean his teeth with cotton dipped in glycerine and clear up his toilet mishaps without a fuss. Earlier, she had managed her mother-in-law's death similarly. Her mother's death was even more long drawn out, more painful for us, as teens. Her mom had lost her mind completely, and would rave and rant. She would pass stools where she stood or lay. But again, my mom was like an angel with her. My aunt -- my mom's sister-in-law- too died of cancer, very young. Her skin would split and fluids would ooze out painfully. Her husband did not want to take care of her, and one day dumped her unceremoniously in our house. It was my mom who gave her a dignified exit. Watching her I always feared that I simply lacked her gentle spiritual strength. Perhaps it was all that karma which made my mom die without giving anybody any hassle. She was sleeping when she passed away. That would be good karma, whichever angle you looked at it from.
She had her issues, though. I was upset with her about those. She needed to keep giving things to others, at her own expense, and often, I felt at our expense. She would prepare biryani in those huge cauldrons you see, on her own, her saree tucked up, like a dhoti, sweating and panting over that humungous amount of food she wanted to feed people with. That meant, for us kids, no new clothes for the festival:( That was the way she was. She never had a piece of gold all her life. Not a single piece. If I gave her money, she promptly gave it away, to others in the family, others who I felt were simply exploiting her, and through her, us.
So, there was this between us: why did she need to give away, when she did not have?
Now she is dead, and that is no more a question that needs an answer. In my thirties, I suddenly understood why she did what she did. But I kept off from her karmic loop, because I did not feel it leading anywhere. On that point, we were like two train tracks, not likely to meet:(
Last week, after I flew down, I again got into the family's familiar loops. Those were as crushing for me, as her death. On my return, with her loss swirling, the sense of my family's habits were also all back, in the foreground of my mind from where I had pushed it away. I had thought I was done with all that. But clearly, it is not so easy. You are created out of all the experiences you have had. When some spiritual awareness steps in, you try to recreate yourself by destroying the hard footprint of those experiences. Obviously, that recreation is not easy.. and I realised that the sculpting on my inner self needed a far more refined scalpel than what I have been using. In my mom's sudden death, this overwhelming revelation.
I had gone to buy a plant. The nursery owner, surprisingly, despite my large goggles covering my eyes, guessed I was sad. He said," Are you okay? You seem very sad. You are very different from your usual self" That was big surprise to me, how he guessed. Usually, if I had been back in Chennai, people would have (cruelly) said, "You have taken your mother's death pretty well," seemingly to pity me, but hitting out when I am down. That was a pattern I was used to:( Humanity is a very strange thing and as I grow older I am chary of who will say what, just to hurt.. `Good' people are often the most unkind. I have sort of grown an armorplate around myself, involuting. That has, somewhere, made me bitter, too, I realise.
Then, my music teacher met me this Wednesday for our usual song session. I spoke to her at length, she is my soul mate in such things. We sang only two bhajans, one which I, without planning, had picked up concerned death and which can be (awkwardly) summed up as: Decorate yourself, you are now going to your beloved's house. Do it completely, so you are not sent back: .. karuley shringaar chatur alebeli. saajanke ghar jaanaa hoga.in Raag Jaunpuri. I told her what all I felt upset about -- that they would not let someone close to my mom lift her body because he is an "outsider" , that they would not let flowers at her feet, and that some people were objecting to agarbhatis (which she loved all her life) and this and that, and other silly things which are more concerned with form than the dignity of the dead. That it was so unnerving to see how in the name of adherence, they were doing things which may have hurt her.And that, as usual, as the third child I was not being listened to, despite being rational. And that to be rational was somehow being considered areligious.. Jayashriji told me, that I must switch all that off also.She told me, the whole rigamarole of pompous adherence was somehow like the Big Boss TV show.
She said," If U do not like a TV programme, switch channels, or switch off the set. Having done that, do not analyse the show. " That will cloud the purity you are seeking, in your mind.
That thinking back, Jayashri told me, would be as bad as being part of the ridiculous show itself. The karma will only repeat itself. Let it go. Be happy you are not part of that sad continuum which may be dragging others in your family down and back.. You left home to be away from all that, she said. By thinking back and forth on it, you are actually returning to the whole loop that was crushing you in the first place and which u wish to escape. You are gripped by mumukshutva(the craving for release/Moksha, what they call Fanaa in Islam). Here there is no place for such things. That is what she said. I felt, as if I was released, suddenly.. That was so true, what she said.
For me death itself is an expansion of the consciousness. It means the soul has progressed into another dimension from where it can review its forward movement, towards cosmic consummation. And that it is released from its limitations. Here, it is refreshed, so the journey ahead will be met with renewed strength.
The maha mrityunjaya mantra makes sense, now.
In death, another lesson, from my mom.