I didn’t think I would make it this far. I vaguely remember Day 100 in Pondicherry. That seemed like ages already. This is unbelievable. I couldn’t fathom how I carried on at that time. I still can’t. So many days have passed without him. I still hold on. Not one moment has passed without him. I still mourn.
Making each day count, working through the pain, celebrating the good times. Excavating words to express feelings that can’t be spoken out loud. Dissecting through ‘stuff’ with fine forceps, making sure nothing is damaged. Connecting. Realising that the colour of blood is the same for all humans everywhere. Hunger feels the same for all. Bones are a shade of white for everyone everywhere. Shame, courage and love are experienced in the same way in Lebanon and Syria as in London and New York. The pain of loosing a child is universal too. Indescribable, potentially unsurvivable. Yet, so many of us survive.
I wonder if he’s counting days too. Does this mean anything to him? I wonder what he would be like at 23. His birthday is coming up soon. I wonder how we would have celebrated it. I wonder how time will mould itself and me as time goes by. I wonder if any of the lessons that need to be learnt from Saagar’s story will ever be properly learnt and implemented. I wonder when my silent inner screaming and constant frantic searching will stop. I wonder if he has an exact duplicate, who will bump into me one day and things will seemlessly go back to being how they were. I wonder how long his friends will want to stay in touch with me and talk about him. I wonder.
Three centuries ago, Newton thought that reality had 3 basic components: time, particles and space. This model didn’t explain everything. Soon other forces that govern movement of particles came along like electromagnetism. Photons, gravitons and gluons emerged yet the essential ingredients of reality remain a mystery.
To explain gravity, Einstein merged space and time into a composite, space-time. Michael Faraday added the concept of a classical field that carries forces through empty space. Quantum Theory showed that all mass and energy are really excitations of underlying quantum fields. Quantum fields and space-time are incompatible, so perhaps there is a more basic component hidden beneath.
In the late 1990s, String Theory was proposed. I don’t understand it fully but basically it says that elementary particles emerge from the vibrations of one-dimensional strings. Therefore, an electron is not really a point, but a tiny loop of string. If it oscillates one way, we see an electron. If it oscillates in another way, then we call it a photon, a quark, or a …
Julian Barbour, a British physicist believes that space and time, united by Einstein must be uncoupled. The only way to define space is to consider it as the geometric relationship between observable particles. He argues that the universe is a set of possible configurations of the 3D geometry of space. He believes that these configurations or ‘snapshots’ exist in a space of possibilities. Time is not real but merely something we perceive – an illusion that comes about because the universe is constantly changing from one snapshot to another.
Spiritual masters have been teaching the concept of everything being an illusion for thousands of years. Physics seems to be catching up.
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
– Albert Einstein
“How are you?”
There is no short answer. Often, there is no answer.
This question comes up walking past friends and acquaintances in corridors. All I can say in the given time is, “Fine. Thanks. And you?” All I can do is acknowledge the question, smile and nod. It’s like saying ‘Hello’. No one actually finds out how anyone is doing or feeling.
It’s been 2 years 3 months and 3 weeks. It could be said ‘enough’ time has passed. For who? Who decides how much time is enough? Traditionally bereavement has been a personal and private process. Does it mean that as a society we would generally prefer it to be personal and private? Other’s sadness can make us feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, not knowing what to say or do. The path of least resistance is to not mention death or the deceased at all. There is a fervent desire that the bereaved will adjust and move on per a set timetable, not only for their own sake but also that of others.
The Bible says:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Never assume someone’s mourning is over and done with. It takes its own time.
As an eleven year old I often felt like I was born in the wrong country with the wrong nose, wrong hair and wrong skin colour. It was all a bit awkward but not much could be done about any of these things. So, the hair was cut short and stayed so for most of my life.
It’s normal for those with dark hair to want them light and vice versa and for those with curly hair to want them straight and vice versa. This is a small example of a much wider discontentment and dis-ease within humans.
We travelled for 36 hours, including an overnight stay at Dar-es-Salaam, 5 take offs and thankfully the same number of safe landings to get here. 3 of these were on the smallest plane I have ever been in. It sits about 14 people including the pilot. It reminds me of ‘Out of Africa’. The engine makes clicking sounds in response to the subtle mechanical actions of the pilot and the scenery is out of the world. Sapphire blue deep waters with turquoise shallow edges dotted with emerald islands with golden crescents along the curved margins.
This is the north of Tanga, a point jaggedly jutting into the Indian ocean with a white sliver of surf marking the reef’s edge. The noon-tide was so far out that it was nothing more than a soft whoosh but we woke up from our post-prandial coma to the rhythmic roaring of the sea that had arrived right up to our doorstep.
The smiles that greet us with ‘Karibu’ are happy and a bit shy. There is no running water or mains electricity. The internet connection comes through a generator and solar powered router, best described as flimsy. Yet, something about being here brings the word ‘contentment’ to mind. This is what it must feel like.
Saagar would have loved this place – a little piece of heaven.
(Sorry, no pictures as very narrow band width on the internet. May be later.)
Historically, I love autumn. It seems that nature has been saving up all its grandeur all through the year for the month of October. The stunning, warm, earthy colours, the cushion of leaves under the feet, the crisp morning sun and the hypnotising evening light. A time for change.
Big change from the energetic lightness of summer to a calm and reflective time.
A time to be centered.
A time to be quiet.
Last 2 autumns have been cruel. They have thrown not just seasons, but Time out of synch. Things seem to be happening in the wrong order. Time has taken on a strange nebulous quality. Starting and stopping at will. Meandering and then barging ahead with full force.
This is a new autumn. It’s a new opportunity to heal. To learn to let go, like the trees let go of their leaves one by one, completely denuding themselves and bravely exposing themselves to the harsh winter, only to come alive again, fresh and new. To know that ‘acceptance’ and ‘forgiveness’ are processes that take their own time. They cannot be rushed. All we can do is allow time and space for them. Pain is a constant companion, sometime more visible than others. Again, it cannot be shooed away. All I can do is to acknowledge it and honour it and allow space for it to sit with me. Settle down.
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Sunday lunch at the start of autumn on a warm day of blue skies and a warm sun, sitting under a wise old carob tree with supported branches and multiple dried brown beans hanging from a wide umbrella of dark green leaves with friends and strangers making introductions followed by conversations, smiles and laughter, references to this and that, occupations, travels and hobbies, daughters and mothers, food and wine, so on and so forth …. as if straight out of a film set infused with a sweet subtle smell of eucalyptus.
All of it completely meaningless, empty, futile, feckless, inane and pointless. Words, words and more words! Exhausting! I had to get up and walk away with my i-pad and take pictures of something. Anything.
In 2 weeks time he will be dead. Around this time 2 years ago he was scoring max on his depression scores and he gave it in writing to his GP in the form of a PHQ-9 form but got no help. No escalation of care. No attention. No mention of ‘suicide’ to us and yet holding a firm belief that a safety plan was in place. Sent home with the suggestion, “It will get better. Give it time. Rome was not built in one day” and a piece of paper.
It was early autumn then and it is early autumn now.
I lived in what I thought was our world then.
I live in a world of my own now. It sort of overlaps with this one in places but most of this one is irrelevant to me.
A week ago, the preparations for our upcoming holiday were on. Today, we are getting ready to head back home. Time has just gone.
The day my son was born is clear as air in my memory. It wasn’t that long ago. It seems like just the other day….
Its puzzling – this thing called ‘time’. Moments drag on seemingly forever but days and weeks fly past in a jiffy.
“What is time?
What is this thing that goes on without pause?
If it did not pass,
Then where could it have been?
It must have been somewhere.
It has passed.
So where is it now?
It must be somewhere.
Where did it come from? Where did it go?
Where did the process start? Where will it end?
What is time?
It may be the pain of a wound
Or the magic of a tender touch,
Or lonely voice or cries around;
Success and failures assailing the mind;
The upheavals of care, the tumult of the heart.
Are like leaves
Floating on the surface of the water.
As they swim along
Now here, now there,
And now they disappear,
Gone from sight, but
There must be something
What is this river?
Which mountains has it come from?
To what sea is it going?
What is time?
Sometimes I think
When I see trees from a moving train,
It seems they go in the opposite way.
But in reality the trees are standing still.
So can it be
That all our centuries,
Row upon row, are standing still?
Can it be that time is fixed,
And we alone are in motion?
Can it be that in this one moment
All centuries are hidden?
What has gone by
Is happening now.
I think –
Can it be possible
That this is true,
That we are in motion?
We pass by,
And what we imagine
Is really motionless.
Moving, not moving?
Whole or divided?
Is it frozen,
Or is it melting?
Who can guess?
What is time?”