Hi everyone, this week’s post will be a personal story from chapters in my life where I have had to deal with grief, loss, and learn to live again. I hope you read this with an open mind as I don’t think of myself as someone who’s had to struggle much but has enough life experience to have learned this lesson quite young.
As you already know, I was born in Sri Lanka to a somewhat traditional family. I never knew my paternal grandfather as he had passed away before I was born. My maternal grandfather lived to see a two-year-old me. Both of these men never got to see the generations to come, to see the wonderful people that make up my extended family. My grandmother’s both survived their husbands for over thirty years and helped mould us kids with some amazing stories and lessons. These two courageous women lived well into their nineties before they passed too. There isn’t a day that goes by without one of my parent’s bringing them up with that ever popular line, “If your grandmother could see you now,” and give some random lecture!! Despite the lecture we get, we all end up reminiscing about some random memory with one of them and the whole family ends up laughing!! You could say, although we miss them, we live with them in our heart and minds every day.
Growing up in Zambia was an experience. I didn’t realise that I would get to see death up close before I was ten though. I think that was the first time I actually remember seeing someone’s funeral. It was a tragic accident that took a whole family we knew. I remember a lot of people were crying and it was a quiet and sombre funeral. I didn’t understand about death until my dad said they were never coming back. I think it was when I went away to boarding school that I truly understood the pain of loss. One of my school friends’ grandmother had died and she was inconsolable for several weeks. I believe that was when it hit me. When I understood what losing a loved one truly meant, the pain that consumes them, and the grief that follows. That poor girl had to endure it all away from home but we were all there for her. I’m not sure how much help we gave but I never forgot her tears and anguish.
When I was in my early twenties my father lost his older sister, my favourite aunt, to pneumonia. We had been living in New Zealand for about two years and it was a devastating loss for us all. She was this bubbly and funny little woman who made us laugh. To think she was gone was too sad to imagine. I remember my sister and I would just find moments when we would just cry together. Although an ocean separated us from the rest of the family, our aunt left a big hole in our lives. That was also the year the world lost Princess Diana and Mother Theresa. We felt as if it was a year of mourning for the world!! The need to cry would be overwhelming but life went on, university exams loomed, and eventually the sun arose to mark the promise of a new day. We grieved together as a family and continued our lives. I’d like to say that both her children and all of us made her proud. Had she lived she would have seen some amazing professionals in her grandchildren today!!
As I became older and attended many more funerals here in New Zealand I realised that death took everyone at some point. It was not an ending to a life, but part of life. We live and we die. As a Buddhist we are taught that death is not a sad event. It’s a starting point to something better. We believe that the merits you gain in this life determines the life you get in the next. So the many good deeds you do counts in your favour. The charitable acts, the kindness you spread, the joy you bring to others all add up to your merits. I’m not the one to ask about whether Buddhists have a heaven or any other heavier questions, my sister would have a better take on this as she’s much more spiritually inclined than I am!!
Loss and grief for me are huge emotions. I have had my share of loss but it can’t compare to what some people endure. Especially in these trying times when the world lives in hope for the ferocity of this terrifying pandemic to recede. I hope what I have shared with you in this post helped you see a slightly vulnerable part of me.
Stay safe and keep reading,