Death becomes Her

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself saddled with sadness, and consumed by a fear of what should perhaps be an everyday thing for me already—death.

I’ve been having difficulty functioning without paranoia overtaking me, without worrying about death’s all too sudden arrival, without secretly fearing each second that my own or someone else’s life will be claimed too soon. Last Sunday, I found myself kneeling in prayer, not really praying but crying within and not really knowing what to do with my feelings. Do I keep them to myself or otherwise? Might I show vulnerability or feign strength? Should I suck it up or let the walls down?

No first job is ever easy. I get that. No job is easy. Period.

What happens to me everyday however, is an everyday emotional roller coaster, an emotional exercise of getting reeled into the situation and having to train yourself to let that go by the end of the day. A family comes in and you must serve. No questions asked.

I’m there, standing or sitting in a corner, watching from a distance and yet feeling every bit part of the scenario and situation. They stand before the casket, bidding their loved one farewell—some wailing, some quietly crying, some caressing their beloved, others simply looking at them for the very last time.

As that happens, it’s inevitable for me and my imagination to go berserk, for me to put myself in their position or sometimes, even put myself in the deceased’s position. It can’t be helped. I stand or sit there, crying each time. I still fail in that department. I still do not have enough stoicism or strength (whichever way you put it or want to see it) in me to be emotionally “professional”, distant and detached at a time like that.

I know I have to understand that it comes with the job, that they turn to us for strength and organization when they least have it and that I must try harder and harder each time to detach myself and stay grounded.

I must try harder.

While I’ve grown accustomed to the sight of the dead, the uneasiness, breathlessness and pain in my gut and heart never go away. It’s not true what they say—that after a few, you grow numb to it.Well, not for me. At least, not yet. Maybe, not ever. Who knows?

How do you simply let go of that and not let it get to you? How do you train yourself to detach from something that becomes too personal to ignore? How do you do it? How does one function knowing death can come anytime? Knowing there are times when it will not be as pleasant and timely as we hope it to be? That there are times when parents have to bury children, when an entire family is lost, when lives are taken by vicious crimes, accidents or even self-infliction? That life will end according to a plan, a plan you know nothing of and can never really be completely prepared for?

A week ago, in my attempt and desire to show a sense of preparation (or again, perhaps feign it), I took one of our “Funeral Self Planners” but never got round to doing it. I’m not sure if that had something to do with fear, self-alienation, denial or a plain busy schedule. Whatever the case, I will do it in time, perhaps when I muster enough strength and clarity to do it.

On my birthday, I found myself thinking:

If this should be my last birthday, what would I want to do with my time? Are there things I’d like to change, people I’d like to apologize to? People I’d like to see, talk to, hug, caress, hold, say I love you to, or simply be with?

I do pray that I be given strength on days like this, when emotion takes the better of me, when the work of the day becomes the lingering thought of tonight, tomorrow and til God knows when.

I’m no psychologist and the only kind of sanity I can offer myself is the occasional time alone in my room or toilet. The only emotional release I have for myself nowadays are times like these, when I can sneak in a little bit of time writing to myself and for myself. 

Today, a family close to ours had a death in the family. My aunt asked me about my current job, how I was finding it and such. Afterwards, she told me something that struck a chord or hit a nerve. She told me that I must realize how difficult yet important our job was. She told me,

“Sab, you must see that there is value in what you do.”

Perhaps, hearing that again and again can help me deal with days like this. Maybe, each time I find myself feeling this way and faltering within, overtaken by my emotions and whatnot, I should remind myself of that. I should keep reminding myself that there is wisdom even in the things I can’t make sense of, that there is and there should be value in what I do .

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