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.