Sunday, February 8, 2009

Death, Be not proud

I read Tuesdays with Morrie on a Sunday and I finished it in one session, a testimony to a brilliant piece of work. However, that is not the subject of this post. The book unearthed a memory that was cocooned in my mind for the last decade. A memory that, like others of its time, shaped me as the person I'm today.

I was never into "days". To me, the idea of correlating a particular day to any person (father's day, mother's day e.t.c) seemed to inflict an insult on the remaining days of the year. As if, they didn't deserve the privilege of the love we showered upon our dear ones (a reason, why I believe that every day should be alike a birthday, never mind that you run the risk of being broke by sunset). Gammy, my best friend, was typically my polar opposite and infuriatingly better than me, an aspect that split over on to our debates. She never failed to remind me, that for those unfortunates, who never had even that one day, these occasions were like an oasis amidst the ceaseless cruelties of life.

It was Mother's Day and I knew how much it meant to Gammy. She had lost her own mother before she completed high school, and I knew the duo shared a relation that transcended the realms that words can contemplate, or comprehend. Listening about her mum, made me realize just how much strength the lady had channelized into her lovely daughter. Quiet, dignified, and a gracious aura, that's what engulfed her. She was my first lesson in death, and the first time, someone taught me, that death was a subject that could be spoken and discussed at length, that it was not morbid, that it was the greatest equalizer, that it taught us how to live, how to be strong and most importantly, how to feel alive. That afternoon, I drew her close to me, and whispered the silliest (and extremely sincere) query I could come up with - "You miss her, don't you?" For a second, as Gammy stood transfixed, I was horrified at the utter insensitivity of the question. She, however, calmly retorted in as many words - " Yes, I do. But I've spent 16 great years of my life with her and I've learnt from her for all these years. She lives through her lessons. It'll suffice for this lifetime". Trust her, to put forth the most profound of the thoughts in a manner so simple, that it heightened the aura of the moment. I've learnt many aspects concerning attitude from her, but that day, Gammy had transcended even herself.

Two years later, Gammy died. Five months after that, a friend came to visit me, and in due course of our conversation, asked me with equal sincerity "You miss her, don't ya?" I guess, I knew the answer to the question even before I was asked. "I spent two great years with her mate, and she taught me a lot more than I could ask for. She lives though her lessons. It'll suffice for one lifetime." I replied, knowing that Gammy would have approved of the answer.

Almost three centuries back, the celebrated poet John Donne wrote a poem whose concluding lines still throng the memories of the elites and the plebeians. Gammy knew what those lines meant, and after she went, so did I - "Death, thou shalt die"!