One Saturday, I had to attend a funeral. The first time I have ever had to do so. I was apprehensive and nervous. Fortunately, I didn’t know this person that well. An occasional greeting. That’s all. Unfortunately, for someone else, he was the entire world.
Fortunately, I say, knowing fully well that it sounds extremely selfish. Same as thinking, ‘Is this the right thing to wear? Is this the right thing to say?’ It sounds like I had my own agenda. Like I was concerned with looking good and fitting in. No. I wanted to blend in. I didn’t want to do or say something that would make me stand out and in any way hurt the family more.
When I reached there, I realised it didn’t matter and it never would have. I could have reached the crematorium on a flamboyance of flamingos and hardly elicited a response. That is how deeply the family was wrapped up in their grief and it was heart breaking. There is nothing one can do or say that can make the situation better or worse. There is nothing. Grief of this magnitude takes the family far away from our web of do’s and don’ts and isolates them in their own mourning. They are way beyond anything around them. Almost like they are in a glass cage and observing the world through their hazy, dusty prison.
Despite the subdued conversation all around there was an underlying air of deathly quiet. Despite the groups of people going about the motions on autopilot, there was a stillness that could never be disturbed.
As I watched the men arrange the funeral pyre while the brother of the deceased performed the final rites, my eyes welled up with tears. I was sorry that anybody had to see this devastating site. I was overwhelmed by the strength that the grieving widow had. I was ashamed by the drama that death is made out to be by movies and cinema. There was never need for drama. This silent, brooding grief was much worse. The only thing you can do is stand by and watch helplessly as a lifetime of memories, sins and love crumble into smouldering ruins within minutes.
There are no words in any language, in any part of the world that can describe how grim the ceremony was. While tears kept welling up in my eyes, the grieving widow was quiet, she was graceful. Sitting a in a corner with her head and shoulders bowed, she was the ultimate symbol of courage for me. She would grasp the hands of anyone who would go up to her to offer their condolences, listen to them attentively and then respond. I could have said it was sad but that word would never do justice to this situation. I kept looking at her trying to figure just how she was holding herself together. I guess this kind of strength is never talked about. The strength that keeps you together when your whole world is falling apart around you. The strength that allows you to soothe others’ grief when yours is beyond help or hope.
Try as I might to avoid it, the fact is that I know this is the first of many others that I would have to attend. Though nothing can change that, I can only hope that when I am faced with the facts of mortality like this, I should be able to learn a bit more about appreciating my life for what it is. That I should be kind, gentle and compassionate because at the end of the day, it is all just
‘Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust’