April is a difficult month. Three dates mark milestones of time but not of the journey it took to get there... Our wedding anniversary, three days later the anniversary of his death and a week after, the funeral…today, six years ago.
While cleaning out a shelf a few weeks ago, I encountered all the mementoes of Shekhar’s funeral…the albums, the e-mails, feelings trapped in words on pages, a DVD, photographs of flower arrangements with heartfelt messages…I felt like someone had put a hand in my chest and wrenched my heart. In a daze upon my move I had tucked this motley elegy to a man into a corner. I don’t remember putting them there or even recall ever having been through them before.
In that moment, I found myself back on the floor of the crematorium, refusing to leave because I could smell him burning…the smell…the smell…layered on fragrant blossoms of a manicured garden in full bloom on a sunny day as Nazi smoke rose from the chimney. What I still cannot understand is how I could be in two places at once…there and here at the same time. There is innate tyranny in resilience…I fell, I broke, it pulled and beckoned…and I rose yet again. The only silver line, it took less time than before.
When people visited during the week before the funeral, I was surprised to find several copies of the Bhagvad Gita left behind. Being a Sikh, I didn’t understand the significance of the gesture but I was drawn to anything that would help me understand what had happened. So I tried to read one of the many copies…it was too dense for me to absorb in my addled state and I gave up until I found a version that better aligned to my sensibility…Eknath Easwaran’s simple translation with its elegant and eloquent synopsis was a revelation but I took umbrage to Krishna’s advice to let go of attachment…how does one do that in a physical world? How can you not be attached to loved ones, to the means of living, the tangible and intangible ways in which you exist? I have reread the book several times since and dip into it every now and then when I feel the need for spiritual succour…it’s only now that I have understood what he meant. I have said the words, told others but the dots only connected when I realized in a moment of insight, the detachment is not from life or the business of living…it is from the outcome…of thought, word and deed. It is very simple when you come to think of it…my grieving for Shekhar cannot possibly have an outcome…time will continue to pass and he will forever remain embedded in me like a shell in a rock, the edges wearing off until he is fossilized into my essence. If I let go of my attachment to my grief, I liberate not only my conscious self but also my soul…I live not just exist. I become present.
Assimilating the polarity of spirituality and science is the only way I can consolidate any insight. Going back to the disputed Kübler-Ross Model of the five emotional stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance with my newfound wisdom I found it missing a final step…release. When you accept, you still cling to a residual grief…yes, it has happened, and no, there is nothing I can do about it…now what? Release…let go…
It is not easy. It is six years and I still struggle with being in two places at one time. But carrying grief is exhausting. It is a heavy burden. It weighs you down. It sucks joy and oxygen and leaves no room for living…for being here, now.
Have I grieved enough? I honestly don’t know. Will this ghost revisit me? Most likely. A sudden gesture by one of the boys, a trace of an aftershave, a turn of a phrase, a scribbled note…anything could trigger an onslaught. Am I prepared? No. But I am tired. So for now, the only thing I can do is put my burden of grief down and rest a bit…detach and release…until next April…and who knows what might happen…
No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.