Wednesday, January 19, 2011

He's Dead. What Does That Mean?

       Since my initial response to my friend Yeswanth's death in my last post "Death Came Calling...And Took My Friend", I've been thinking about the fact that he's gone. It was moving to read the expression of sorrow and loss from so many people on his Facebook wall, as I waded through my own thoughts on the matter. I suppose it was the sentiment expressed on Facebook that made me want to write about the implications of the feelings that hit us in the aftermath of death, on these occasions where we are suddenly confronted with the fragility of our bodies and the fleeting nature of our existence.

    There is a sense of incompleteness, a sudden void that seems to appear both in our sense of the little social bubble that we construct for ourselves and our hearts when someone we know is no longer there. It's especially felt when that person is someone we were very close to, as if a hole has been made in the wall or roof of a cozy "house" that we live in, and we suddenly feel the discomfort of not being sheltered from the uncertainties of the outside world. And I think that's why we experience the feeling of missing someone when they die - because they're the part of our carefully constructed "house" that's been damaged or taken away, and it's no longer a secure house anymore. I've never really thought of it like this before, but the sense came through so clearly as I read post after post on Yeswanth's wall that read along the lines of "I am at a loss for words and will miss you so badly...". I think there is a legitimate reason behind this feeling that hits us. I am convinced that it is God's gentle reminder to us that this world and life are transient and fleeting; as much as we crave constancy and security, we will never be able to construct a secure and lasting enough bubble for ourselves, as hard as we try.

    But there are also so many, many implications that follow once this realization sinks in, and I saw that expressed on his wall too. There is the sense of fear as the gap in our house reminds us of our own mortality, that we may at any minute encounter the event that stops our heartbeat, the breath in our lungs and hurl us into pitch darkness from which we will never return. There is the sense of finality, as we watch the body of the person taken to the crematorium or the burial ground. But even in the midst of this, we long for true peace and a place that we can truly call 'home', where there is real security. Why else do we write things like "RIP", "I'll see you on the other side", "Hope you're seeing this from Heaven", "You have reached your destination", etc? Once again, this reminds me of the post "Where Is Home?" that I wrote in 2009.

    Isn't it strange how the idea of a Godless, random world that arose by pure chance and completely explained by science doesn't seem all that appealing at times like this? I find no consolation in explanations of how Yeswanth will be broken down and recycled into the planet's cycles for organic matter. Or comfort in mourning the loss of his DNA from the gene pool of humanity, and the resulting impact on the variety and survivability of the human species. Atheism has no consolation to offer; for all our indulgence of Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', The Selfish Gene' and the like, their explanations as to where Yeswanth is now, why friends miss him and his family is devastated are hollow and unsatisfying.

    What do I see in the words on his Facebook wall? That we recognize and value the individuality and intrinsic worth of the person called Yeswanth. That there must be something more to a human being than Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen - a spirit, a soul. In the process, we implicitly admit that this was given to him by a source greater than ourselves and our world where change is the only constant. That's the only reason why people write about their prayers for him and his family. Ultimately in moments like this when the rubber meets the road, as much as we may sincerely mean words of condolence, it eventually boils down to only one word that offers any possible answer. The one word that offers consolation and hope of real security, the only word that keeps emerging from the background of everything that everyone is trying to say in all their shock and sorrow:


    I believe that is who my friend is standing in front of and looking at now. But can God offer hope? What response can He give to all that we say and feel? I'm going to stop here for now and think about that for the next post. May you find your comfort in Him. God bless you.

- The Wisdom Seeker