Live As If You Were To Die Tomorrow - A Remembrance

November 28, 2010

26/11 is remembered by all Indians for it was day we sat with a dropped jaw in front of our TV, watching helplessly what was happening in our country, in Mumbai.  The future was uncertain, and the terror was not coming to an end, we did not know what was coming up, as we had to sleep that night, or rather two consecutive nights wondering how safe are we? How safe we think we are in the close vicinity of our house?  

It was a strange feeling on 27th evening when I returned from office, listening to FM radio, there was a sense of uncertainty and helplessness even in the tone of the radio anchor.  It was again the usual evening and same quiet dinner at home with my family, but I was feeling the weight of heavy stones on my heart.  I didn't really want my kids to know what was happening... kids are much more sensitive... so wanted to keep them unaware of the terror attack in Mumbai.

It was tough to decide to put my head on my pillow that night, because there were many who would be shaking in terror or lying in the pool of their blood, far away from their loved ones.  It was not a good thought to sleep conveniently in my bedroom, as if I was choosing ignorance.  But I did sleep, and deeply, as I was tired - may be mentally too.  Only to be woken up by the ring of my mobile phone.

I was so tired that I did not know that it was just 11 pm, and that the number flashing on my mobile phone was of my father. I was too sleepy to check the number and with shut eyes, I groggily uttered "hello".  The words that I heard rattled me..... my father spoke in a tone as if trying hard to remain calm, the words.... which still make me go numb.  He said " S (my brother-in-law)  had gone to Vaishno Devi (Shrine) with his father, he fell down, unki death ho gayi". (meaning - he died).  I still remember his words.

I felt I was made to forcefully sit on a giant wheel, which whirled and whirled in circles and then dump me hard on the ground...... I opened my eyes and I had lost the sense of direction..... I didn't know where I was.... for a few seconds..... and then I cried out to him "aap kya keh rahe ho??" (what are you saying?).  He broke down, my father - a stoic person that he is - I had never seen him express his emotions before this. I knew he could not be wrong or mistaken, surely we had lost the husband of my younger sister, S.

What followed it were diverse emotions - first denial (no, this can not happen), then acceptance.  Then I was questioning God, why did he do this? and then I grieved and grieved and cried and cried.  
About S, he was a young, energetic  guy who loved life, had so many dreams in his eyes.  He was healthy, as we understood.  He never smoked, would take a drink once in a blue moon, but did not exercise or went to gym, but was a very positive person in his attitude towards life, and I got along with him very well.  While he was walking up Vaishno Devi Shrine, which is about 13 kms walk, with his father, he had 2 or 3 heart attacks.  While he had the first attack, he understandably sweat profusely but did not realise its severity and he walked on, but the second or the third attack left him dead.

He died in the arms of his father, at a pilgrimage site which is very much respected by Hindus.  The father, i am pained to say this but was one really unlucky father, who pleaded to doctors to conduct some test, some thing, anything to see if they could revive him, but I was too late.  He had bring back his dead son by road.  My heart still goes out to Uncle, as a shattered man that he had become, he, very bravely, went on directing us what to do next.
My sister, first was shocked, but later inconsolable, she kept saying "but he had bought new sports shoes, he said, I will come back and we will begin our morning walk together, we need to streamline our life, we will begin to take care of our health and family... but he bought new sports shoes yesterday"  Something broke inside me each time I heard this.  I remembered my kid sister's face, when during our childhood,  her ice candy would fell down on the floor in summer afternoons and she would cry... so innocently.... I saw the same on her face again.  What was her fault in all this? But I did not stop her from crying. It's important to grieve.

As for me, I suddenly realised that I was the only one over there on whom everyone, everyone in the two families could have leaned on.  Suddenly I realised I was tough.  Suddenly the immediate and future course of action was in front of my eyes.  I never knew I was so strong.  I cried, but mostly I stopped my tears, collected my pain inside my chest and decided to make my sister strong again.  My sister went into a self pity.  She thought, now it's all over and she could not do anything.  She won't be able to take care of her 4 year old daughter, as the little angel was completely a daddy's girl.  She was lost, had begin to feel the pressure of the family members around her, who had begun to ask her about their bank accounts, FDs, investments etc.  It was too early for her to even think like that.  But, may be it was practical responsibilites which made them ask all that.

I had decided to visit my sister everyday till she became a bit balanced.  To my surprise, the great keepers of our society told me, I should leave her alone in her in-laws place, and let them take care of her.  Can you believe it?? Our traditions, customs are always above the sensitivity of a human being, they are mostly beyond us, and that's why I don't care for them much.   I told my mother, in no uncertain terms, that I would be visiting my sister everyday, I will dress up like her in light coloured clothes and I won't put a Bindi or any make up till I am with her, till the time she needs me.  I can not let my sister go into self pity and a deep burrow of sorrow. That was my way of showing solidarity to her, as a human being.  Of course, my mother did not like it, but I did what I had to do.

I had decided to use that pain which was churning and killing me inside.  I had decided I am going to use this pain, and this pain will take us ahead.  We settled all the documentation work in his office, financial transactions.  I am glad I could instill faith in herself as a mother.  Soon she understood that she was not helpless, her finances were sorted out and she knew she is not at the mercy of anyone.  In due course of time, we could convince her to marry again.  She has moved on now, married again.  Though, the pain does not go completely but the wound begins to heal with time and with a proper support system.

I have to mention here that the only people in front of whom I feel like bowing my head, are the parent's in law of my sister, who took care of my sister like their own daughter - not just in words but in deeds.  I am indebted to them for my life.

Today, after 2 years I have relived this pain.  I have re-lived each and every moment. yesterday and today. It is prudent to remember that death can come any moment, any time, without warning, when you won't even have the time to goodbye to your loved one's , you won't have the opportunity to hug your loved one's one last time.  You won't have the chance to tell some one how much you love them, be it your parents, your spouse, your partner or anyone.
I had always believed in living the moment to the fullest.  Because it is this very moment which is mine.  And this incident reinforced that belief in me.  Unfortunately, for my sister and S, they were planning to live, they had postponed life to a better day , when....... (differs for every person)..... that made her really sad that they had not even begun to live, even after 10 years of marriage and one kid, they were planning to live and enjoy the things that they have, while both of them kept working hard.  Today, the fruits of hard work are there, but may be the desire to taste them is not there.

Dear reader, there are two things I want to say to you.  First, take care of your health, work comes next to a fit body, so please have proper diet, rest and do exercise before it gets too late.( Know about heart attack in young men from this post.  Indian men are quite prone to heart diseases, and everyone should know this.)   Also, don't ignore any symptom which can be an indication of illness.  Our body talks to us, we just have to listen to it.

And second, live..... Life is what you have right now in front of you.  There are no tomorrows.  One must plan for years to come, but in that zeal don't forget your present, for only this moment is yours.

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." -
  --  Mahatma Gandhi

Work like you don't need the money;
dance like no one is watching;
sing like no one is listening;
love like you've never been hurt;
and live life every day as if it were your last.

-An Old Irish proverb

With love,



Arpana said...

Touchy and i truly agree with your every word.

Reema said...

so sad :( Exercise and healthy living is a must and so is living each day as if it were the last

Neeha said...

Touchy n I agree with you completely..
Having such a great in-laws is really lucky & hard to find..
Take Care

Vikram Waman Karve said...

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
This is the greatest philosophy of life from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi that I try to follow.
Nicely written insightful blog.

JoshiMukard said...

Yes, "death can come any moment, any time, without warning" And when it did came, you showed tremendous character in showing solidarity to your sister by deciding "I will dress up like her in light coloured clothes and I won't put a Bindi or any make up till I am with her, till the time she needs me" - Hats off to your attitude. I agree with you when you say "take care of your health and live your life".

A heart-wrenching post.

zephyr said...

Your concern shows through every word, or else you wouldn't have shared such intimate pain. Hope it strikes a chord in everyone's heart that reads it.

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Aparna - thanks.

Reema - yeah right.

Neeha - I know, so true.

Vikram Karve - Vikramji, I also believe in it. thanks.

JoshiMukard - My eyes went moist reading ur comment. thanks a lot for saying those words.

zephyr - hmm, yes, don't know what to say. Yes, it's a deep pain.



Nethra said...

Thanks for the advise and I'm sorry for your sister lost her husband. A really sad story but glad you helped her throughout.

anu said...

Very nice flow.Good article

Dr. Pratibha Singh said...

very thoughtful post and thank god your sister is happily married now. I must say its yours and her in laws support which pulled her out of the well of pains .great restless!

Purba said...

It is the unpredictability of life and tragedies that come unannounced that make us sit back and introspect.

I am sorry for your sister's loss but am glad you were her rock solid support when she needed you the most.

Harish P I said...

remembering the loss of many loved ones while reading these lines. The feelings sre very universal, isn't it?..

Amropali said...

i just read this yesterday somewhere:

"maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it's to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?

'I do.'
'what else is there?'

It is unfortunate, but it is all these events that make life more precious, I guess.

Nalini Hebbar said...

Touched...some moments in life are real eyeopeners.
Happy to see that your character came thru to help yourself and your sister!
hats off to her in-laws!

Vee said...

hats off to you and also to your sister's in-laws. not everyone of us will be lucky to have people like you around to take care of us in the times needed. its only that little support we need when in helpless times to bring the confidence back in us, and only that little support is very difficult to get in a society like ours with self imposed restrictions in the name of religion and culture. i wish we reason the ways we follow and agree to follow.

the irish proverb sounds so perfect but we rarely follow it. i wish we do, every one of us do!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your sister's loss. My condolences are with her and you as well.

and by the way, to tell you a fact, the Hindu scriptures glorify a woman who dies as a 'Sumangali' meaning passing away while her husband is alive. But from my own personal experience, I have seen many men unable to cope with loss of their woman, while women somehow manage to involve themselves with the running of their family along with their sons, daughters and their grandchildren.

This i am quoting from my personal experience wherein I have seen my grandmother from my mother's side coping well with her loss of her husband while, a close friend of mine who lost his young wife, reclining to a corner of his room whenever he comes back from work shutting himself out from the outer world.

varsha said...

comes from the heart..

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Nethra - thanks dear for your concern.

anu- thanks.

Pratibha - yes dear. and thanks.

Purba - yeah true. Well I tried to.

Harish - ah, were you? Yeah, such emotions cross all the boundaries man can think of.


A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Amropali - It's both the good and sad events that makes our life complete. Thanks for sharing those lines.

Nalini - thanks, yes they are amazing ppl.

Vee - glad to read this line Vee -

"i wish we reason the ways we follow and agree to follow." We must question at times. I did and I am glad for that.

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Neo - you are absolutely right. Women HAVE to fight back and try to bring life to a normal level for the sake of their family and kids, but men some how break down. That way women are mentally stronger. Plus it's social conditioning.

Anonymous said...

WEll, it is not courage or social conditioning but rather i would say, women gel with family matters better and they tend to involve themselves with so many affairs and people around them, which men cannot. men actually lean themselves onto one single person not even their sons or dauthers, but their spouses. so when they loose them, they tend to grow weaker on their knees and cant stand.

thats why, i said when then the hindu scriptures say it is good for a woman as and when she passes away as a sumangali??? i am intrigued

Jack said...


True, we do not know what lies next for us. I have been witness to such happenings. I feel so sad for S and your sister. It is heartening to know that her in laws were so affectionate. May God be kind is what I say.

Take care

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Neo, ok now I got it. yes, that way it surprises me too.

Jack - thanks a lot for your kind words.


Desh said...

Interesting read, Restless. Nice to know this side of you as well - the rock solid person.

As for the death, it is just an event. No more and no less. And, no one ever cries for the person who has gone, but for the void that fills one's own heart and life because of it.

I am very happy for your sis for having moved on in life.. and for you to have taken an important lesson - to remain healthy.

And lastly, death on way to Vaishno Devi shouldn't be made much of. It could have been on the way to the office as well. God or shrines have nothing to do with miracles or esoteric stuff, but about experiencing what is beyond one's reach right now. Its great you didn't dwell on that aspect.. :)

Keep writing, RM!

Anonymous said...

Awesome information, many thanks to the article writer. It’s understandable to me now, the effectiveness and importance is mind-boggling. Thank you once again and good luck!.

Jsmithks said...

Beautifully written article and so close to the heart. I appreciate the depth, feeling, and insights that you shared these experiences. 

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