Courage Chip

 

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Category: Reflections 15 Jul 07

 

There are times when life makes us mute. Words dry up. You walk weightlessly. I had one of those days last week when I saw a woman dressed in black in a coffee shop. Her teenaged son was one of several boys who died in a car crash.

 

Around then, a tape kept playing the fact that I grew up around five people two siblings, two parents and after December 31, 2006, when Varun, my brother died there were four.

 

Dying happens to everyone. There was a spoof on dying in a New Yorker magazine where the headline read something like “State records leaked. All humans born in early last century dead. Doctors under investigation.” The joke was always on us. The ridiculousness of the fact that no matter how often it happens, and how inevitable it is, death always is a massive shock.

 

It’s not easy being a human being is what I would tell the alien from Mars.

 

We are complex, contradictory, tough and fragile all at once, both masters and slaves to destiny.

 

It takes a millisecond for us to slip on a wet floor, to be wheelchair bound for life, to die in a car crash, to go from being the middle sibling to the eldest.

 

I am no longer impatient of people with huge egos. They fly in the face of fragility. They think themselves beyond the human condition. Such dogged stupidity is life affirming.

 

The problem is just when we go mute, have “bad days” other people’s lives look rosy. We become the forlorn solitary onlooker at an amusement park.

 

Someone once said six weeks is all people give you after you’ve suffered bereavement. After that they expect you to “get on with it.”

 

Before my brother died, I never knew what to say to people who lost someone they loved. Now other people say to me, “I don’t know what to say.” I want them to talk about him. I want them not to act as if he never existed.

 

Kiss of life

 

The tears in my eyes mean I’m glad they remembered. It’s a way of having him with us. And no it’s not an encroachment. “Tell me more. Did he really flirt with you? Oh I know the smile he would have given you. Did he stand on top of a hill in Grenada and kiss you and say it was the “kiss of life” a mere year before he died?”

 

For seven months I have been following the arc of five minus one equals four. Being with someone while they are dying was as much of a miracle as was giving birth.

 

As I move away from the event, break and float apart on sheets of ice, the distance allows clarity.

 

He was no saint. We always knew that. But he was so damn big. So tall, so loud, so demanding, so ruthless, so kind, so much of a pain, just so much so we walk around puzzled. From too much to nothing? What kind of math is that?

 

Following the arc of his loss, I’ve realised he’s laughing at us.

 

He hasn’t gone. He’s placed a chip with his name inside us all. I’ve just found mine.

 

The way Varun didn’t flinch when doctors said “five years,” “three months,” and finally “two weeks.” It’s all over Varun said, and came out with us for a Chinese takeaway. Until his last conscious moment, he fought for supremacy over the chessboard, over his mind. We never glimpsed the terror of knowing you are about to die. Everyone who dies does that kind of thing. You just have to wait silently and you find it. And there he stays with you. The courage chip.

 

There are days, weeks even, when I am passionately and happily engaged in my life. Then it’s as if the arc gently dips and takes you inwards back to an essential relationship that death doesn’t touch.

 

And it’s not at all sad. It’s wonderful. You sift through more material. You emerge with another insight left behind by the dead. You pass it on. The egotists have a point. Death is overrated.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur