I remember writing about death when given an assignment on it for the spirituality page of the newspaper I worked for. I remember knowing nothing about it and knowing enough to be able to make up something that made sense to my barely out of teenage mind.
My first encounter with it, happened when Jimmy died. I was 13 and the loss was bigger than the sense of death. I cried each night it rained because I feared he was buried somewhere int he earth outside and getting wet in the cold rain.
The second happened when I was 23 and Panther passed away. I watched him die for a month. I watched him thin, his teeth became even bigger and menacing because the gums were decaying. He lost 15 kilos of his 30 kilogram frame and became skeleton thin. I watched him die as I sat near him with a diary in my hand as I tried to talk me out of it. That night I didn't know if he would make it through the night. He was panting more than ever, as if he wanted to still breathe as much as he could. He lay on a blanket that was mine from when I was very little. A kids blanket. and then it started to happen, the breathing became thicker and he was now gasping for breath. His eyes became bigger and he was in so much pain that it was hard to look at him. Very soon a strange sound started to come out from his mouth, the sound of death approaching and as if he could see it. I do not know if he knew what had happened to him. Perhaps he did, perhaps not. He moaned in pain as I lifted his head and placed it on my lap to comfort him. I remember my silent tears and fervent praying for his pain to end, even if it meant he would be silent forever. My mom, ever the religious person she is, ran to get some Gangajal. Considered the holiest of water among us Hindus. She poured some drops of it in his mouth as he was taking his last breath. My mother even made it a point to recite from the Gita to him. Another one of our holy books. I found myself reading from one of the prayer books too. To keep myself from losing my mind perhaps. And because I didn't want to take a chance with him.
And then just like that he went silent and lay still. His pink tongue lolled out from one side of his mouth and I shut his eyes. I must have sat with him, petting him, loving him, kissing his head and most of all talking to him for an hour before we were to take him away. It was past midnight and we placed him on a bed-sheet and lifted him up. We took him to the garden near out place where our house help had dug the earth so we could bury him. He was slowly lowered down. My mom emptied some packets of salt so as to keep other animals away. And we put the soil back in the grave, burying him. I didn't know what was happening then. But the scene plays on my mind quite often and I do not know how I managed to remain calm through that time. It has been four years but Panther refuses to really die. My mind refuses to accept he isn't here and I have to stop myself from asking my mom every now and then if Panther has had his meal.
I didn't mean for this post to be about Panther as much as about death. I have feared it a lot these past few months. And I want to get over it. I want to tell me that if it has to happen it will and such fear is unnecessary and crippling.
I wish to face each fear and stare in its face till I fear no more. I do not know what will work. I only wish to get stronger. So much stronger than what I pretend to be.