Here one moment, gone the next

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

How weird is this life? I could be sitting with you having a coffee and enjoying a laugh together, and then moments later I could be dead. Just like that.

A sudden collapse

My sister-in-law was on the phone with me this evening — she explained how earlier today her uncle in India was attending a wedding reception, greeting the family, enjoying being around everyone. Then within moments he had collapsed with a heart attack. Soon after that, he was dead.

At the age of 51, his life had suddenly ended. His warm, wonderful personality was no more.

It was only a few weeks ago that she had seen him and was hanging out with him. Little did she realise how final her last goodbye to him would really be.

How is it that someone you adore and expect to have around you forever will one day drop out of your life at the beat of a heart?

When she got the news, my sister-in-law was clearly in shock. She wouldn’t be seeing her uncle in this life ever again. When she visits India next, he won’t be there. When she goes to his house, he won’t be there. When she picks up the phone to give him a call, he won’t be there.

Coming together, falling apart

In the timeless Jain tradition, we understand that when two people come together and fall apart, it is not just for this life. Even a death doesn’t mean the absolute end of that relationship.

The act of coming together and falling apart has been happening for many lifetimes in the past and will likely happen for many more in the future. So logically, it should not bring us any suffering when someone close to us dies.

The loss is inevitable so there’s no point in crying, right?

But the academic understanding of that relationship between any two of us over multiple lifetimes, doesn’t take away the shock, or the pain, of losing someone dear to us.

Loosening the shackles

Our strong attachment to them while they were here doesn’t just disappear overnight when they are no longer with us. It takes a while for the shackles of that attachment to loosen, for that grief to lessen.

Over time, this contemplation on the ever-changing nature of the world around us and the inevitability of loss will gradually help reduce the ups and downs that we face in our day-to-day lives.

But while that work is taking place, anytime we lose something or someone we hold so dear, it will naturally bring pain and sadness. Don’t let yourself get sucked into that sadness, nor that pain. Witness it. See it for what it is and let is pass.

Only then will you able to lead a calm and purposeful life.

Losing a second child

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

It’s difficult enough losing one son. But to lose a second to the same medical condition — that’s not easy for any mother to deal with.

Earlier this week I spoke with the mother of a classmate who passed away. Her son was a decent guy, a talented musician and got on well with most people. When I read about his death in the school magazine, I attempted to make contact with his family via the school. His mother called me back.

My friend was 31 years old when he died. I had last spoken with him 15 years ago, but had lost touch with him since leaving school.

His mother explained that when his younger brother died due to the same medical condition, my friend’s health suddenly deteriorated too – almost as though he had given up hope.

But today’s post isn’t about hope or regaining lost hope. It is about the painful reality of a mother’s second loss.

So here we are, a mother who had lost two sons. There is of course a third son who lives, the eldest son. Some may indelicately state that “at least you still have him, your eldest son” — but that doesn’t make it any better. That doesn’t make the loss any less.

Some may say “at least both your sons are no longer suffering” — but that doesn’t make a mother’s loss any less either.

Others may still fumble “ok, it’s time now for you to get on with your life and make the most of what you have left” — but a mother’s loss takes time to deal with, to live out its course in its own natural time.

I’m reminded of the mother of another school friend (a friend who passed away in a car accident almost a decade ago). Since then she has become a grandmother, twice. But it doesn’t take away the loss of her son.

Family events will come and go. Families will expand and grow and transition through bad times and good. But a son lost will never be forgotten, nomatter how much outside forces may insist it should.

My thoughts right now are with all the mothers who have raised and lost. Lost through distance. Lost through misunderstandings. Lost through death.

A mother’s loss doesn’t get easier, regardless of how many times she experiences it. I hope that the suffering mothers in the world around us find some comfort and courage to feel lighter, to grow stronger, to live with love.

It will feel like an emotional rollercoaster

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

Following the loss of a loved one, no two days are ever the same. They never will be.

You may have gone through a low period for a while and gradually things were starting to feel better. Then out of nowhere, a bout of anger or sadness suddenly hits you – knocks you for six.

Perhaps a couple of days later you feel better, lighter, calmer. Then without warning you smell something that reminds you of them and you immediately crash into gloominess.

Ups and downs and ups and downs and some more downs. Just like an emotional roller coaster.

You know, that’s just how it is – and it’s ok.

Don’t feel you have to get better everyday. Time doesn’t heal. Patience does.

Give yourself a break. Don’t feel you have to get better because “it’s been a month now and you SHOULD be over it”. There’s no real getting over it, and don’t let anyone force you to get over it. If need be, gently explain how you feel, and then ignore their (at times well-intended, at times manipulative) words of advice.

It’s real for you. Very real. No-one knows how real it feels other than you.

Watch it, observe it, let it pass.

Observe the highs and let them pass.

Observe the lows and let them pass.

Gently over time the roller coaster will settle, releasing you from its grip, letting you enjoy your afternoon in the park.