Opinion

The Loneliness In Loss

Last year grief has been part of my life as it’s of many lives. I realise that my sorrows are nothing compared to the shattering tragedies we encounter daily on
23 May 2017 11:48
The Loneliness In Loss
Satendra Nandan

Last year grief has been part of my life as it’s of many lives. I realise that my sorrows are nothing compared to the shattering tragedies we encounter daily on the radio waves and television screens from many corners of our one and only world, so vulnerable – an infinitely beautiful and suffering thing.

Often though the news come from distant shores; what touches us, ordinary mortals, is the personal–especially the dying of someone you’ve known. The human heart cannot bear too much reality. The personal becomes universal.

I’m at an age when the loss of friends, colleagues, relatives, is common place. In the past few years I’ve lost half a dozen of my closest companions: people with whom I had studied; with whom I had lived; with whom I’d travelled to many parts of the world; whose acts of affections and kindness had become so much  part of my life and living, writing and reading, politics and poetics.

And a kind of survival through many dark and desolate nights. Then love and the touch of hand mattered most.

These were people who were part of my larger family of the mind and imagination by which we survive the darkest moments of inhumanity in our lives; men and women who restore your faith by their moments of humanity to you.

Without them, the coups we experienced would have broken our lives into too many disparate parts. It would have been impossible to put the pieces together without bitterness or forgiveness or that step forward.

To see, what you gave your life to, broken by a few people is the tragic story of humankind. And no community, nation, family or individual is immune to it.

I was thinking these thoughts over this week as I walked on the streets closest to my mortgaged home where the edges of the streets are stippled with fallen autumn leaves. One day the trees are scarlet and golden; next day the boughs are bare and the leaves have  floated to the cold earth and litter the streets with a fallen beauty of things that can bring tears to your heart and memory of things once  you’d seen green and growing:

Margaret, are you grieving

Over golden grove unleaving?

Leaves, like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah, as the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you will weep and know why.

I’d not experienced autumn in my childhood but now I walk on these leaves that my three-yearold grandson collects and puts them in a jar for his mum. Life returns in very small things like blades of grass between concrete slabs or hope and love through the cracks of the human heart or in the smile of a child.

For the past thirty years we’ve, or at least I’ve lived in the shadows of the dreadful coup on 14 May 1987. Nothing more painful had happened to me — neither poverty, nor pain of growing up, had touched my life with a deeper intensity.

Life was a stream and one could dream. And I was lucky enough to have grown on a river’s riparian banks.

There was no fear of a nightmare from the trusted world in which one had grown up with its generosity and abundance. Where everyone was poor, you never felt the stings of poverty or envy.

And then the September ‘87 coup broke our hearts again into bits and fragments.

Then, of course; the 2000 coup. All this combined to destroy the faith of a people.

Some see the 2006 coup in the same light. I do not: not all coups are the same; nor all wars are evil. Some have to be fought to restore order and some sense of decency in human affairs. The price is often high but fighting for these values are essential.

To lay equal blame and see all Fijian coups in one light is to miss the point and its inherent hypocrisy is patent to those who understand history’s ineluctable movements.

These sad thoughts were circling my heart and mind when on May 19, I got the news that in Suva someone I knew had suddenly died.

There’s nothing unusual about death–it happens daily even as people are born.

But there was something unexpected about this death–the person had died in his sleep; he was barely 35 years old, less than half my age.

Now like many of us, we’ve lost our grandparents, then parents, a few elder brothers and sisters and relatives, and village folks, but when your brother’s or sister’s children’s children begin to die, a deeper desolation fills your soul.

A loneliness sets in; that is elusive and everlasting: it envelops the soul from womb to the tomb and even beyond.

This is the inconsolable loneliness of death itself. How does one cope with this great grief; how do you console the parents of the dead young man or woman?

One may write a note; make a phone call; send a card with flowers; attend the funeral and the ceremonies, but nothing it seems to me fills that void of the deepest kind that death creates. Grief may be shared but one experiences the pain of it alone.

Children are orphaned; what’s the word for parents who lose their children?

No coups can compare with its loss and the heart-wrenching loneliness. It happened to me on May 19 this year.

A few months earlier, it had happened to me in Delhi when we heard the death of someone we’d spent an evening with and suddenly, barely 40, she was dead: A woman in her prime of life. Suddenly Delhi lost its fascination for me.

It’s never easy to accept death and dying.

In the last few years I’ve written obituaries on the death of several poets, writers, politicians and persons who touched my life in some way or another. It’s my way of remembering and honoring them.

One died in London, one in Adelaide, one in Toronto, one in Delhi, one in Canberra and now one in Suva.

Grief has to be lived; the dead loved; and the living to go on and on…

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