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When life doesn’t make sense

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Destiny of LifeMy mother had always lived a life filled to the brim with deeds that brought relief to people in need. Anyone could just walk up to our door and ask for help…the gardener, the watchman, the cow loitering on the road or a dog going hungry… mom was always there, ready with food or money or whatever. A frail delicate figure in a softly starched cotton saree, she was always busy. And because of her hospitality we were often deprived of a much needed weekend rest with the endless arrival of guests.

Mom always firmly believed that the only things we carried with us to the next world were the love and wishes of those one had helped in this life. So I grew up imbibing her conviction that only good things happen to good people. God promise – I truly, truly believed that - until destiny proved otherwise. A cerebral stroke seized my mother. There she lay, reduced to a state of pathetic inertness. Later, just as she seemed to be responding to treatment, cancer struck. Her food pipe got blocked and a tube had to be inserted through her stomach to feed her. Her suffering choked me. Life did not make sense to me anymore. Why did this have to happen to her, I repeatedly asked myself. Mom passed away after a brief but intense suffering.

As a practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, I was aware of the theory of karmic retribution. But my heart refused to accept this reality when it came to my mother. I was wallowing in my grief, unable to share it with anyone when a Buddhist friend of mine advised: Don’t dwell too long on this. It was meant to be. We all come into this world in the middle of the movie and leave in the middle of the movie. It is life’s way of settling accounts.

Even though we know that death is the only reality in life – the one thing that is certain to happen, we are never prepared for it. When my close friend’s brother calmly jumped to his death from the 7th floor of a building in Bombay, it shook us up. His traumatized father still spends sleepless nights haunted by the question – But why?

So how is one to deal with this truth – a loss that makes nonsense of all our desires and obsessions? There you are with all your plans in place for a happy and secure future for your children. You plan to walk into the sunset, hand in hand with your mate, staking your legitimate claim to a peaceful and tranquil old age. But ….

There are some people I know who’ve learnt how to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives, make sense of their loss and move on. They’ve realized that courage holds the key, that courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.

Penelope who lost both her father and brother in a brutal tragedy made her own powerful discovery. “No matter how hard we think and rationalize, we might never understand why but we can appreciate what we have. I have my mother and a chance to make her life comfortable and happy.”
Dr. Phil McGraw believes grief is a process to go through, not a destination in which to wallow. You keep putting one foot in front of another. Days turn into weeks, weeks to months… each little step is part of the process of healing your heart. Seeking spiritual succour has proved very helpful to those who’ve been unable to muster strength enough to get by another day.

Time often reduces the intensity of pain. But no one can tell us exactly when. The grief is personal and cannot be shared. The one simple truth is that we don’t get to choose how we’re going to die, or when. We can only decide how we’re going to live. And that is NOW!  

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