It was a strange feeling. I felt so light, yet so powerful. So small yet so all-encompassing. I felt like a miniscule, inconsequential grain of sand on the ocean floor. I felt like an omnipresent, life-affirming breath of air. It was so confusing, yet so liberating. I was flying. I was soaring. I was running, I was swimming. I felt all the despair in the world, I felt all the happiness in the world. It was all so new and alien to me that it took me a while to realize it. But eventually, realize it I did.
I was dead. As dead as a … dead body. I couldn’t feel my skin, though I could sense my surroundings. My eyes wouldn’t open, though I could see everything. I could hear and I could smell, but I knew my nose and ears were not functioning. It was like the real me was finally set free from the confines of my body. My consciousness escaped my brain, engulfed my body and spread out into the world. Liberated.
The manner of my death matters not – it as inconsequential as my now frigid body. But the manner of my funeral is what reflects my life. My funeral would be the last sojourn in my life long quest to know myself. While previously I had learned from looking back at myself and my life, this would be different. This time, I would be learning about myself from what others feel about me and my death. So come join me, won’t you?
As I watch, I see people come from far for my funeral. My children, their spouses and their children, my friends, my colleagues and my family. They all look grim, though I am sure some of that is due to the weariness from their travel. I look at them and I know everyone there respects me. Not necessarily love, but definitely respect.
As I scan across the entire gathering, I see my son in the middle of it all, taking care of the arrangements and greeting the guests, all the while keeping down his grief. He is a good boy. He is like an extension of me – something I am proud of. But our relationship hasn’t always been rosy. We have had our disagreements in the past and what with the egos we both harbor, I don’t think we ever got as close as I would have liked. But I am proud of him. He is a respected and liked person in his town and people go to him for advice and counsel. He is a good man. But why am I telling you this! We should get back to learning about me.
As I continue looking upon the scene, I see my elder daughter, her face stricken with grief. She is the spitting image of my mother as far as character goes. Always hard working, always enterprising, and always strict! Always ready to help others but also not afraid to give people a piece of her mind when they disappoint her. People fear her, people respect her, people admire her. And me, I am one of the people too. But why am I telling you this! The topic is me.
I shift my gaze and there, sitting by her sister, I see my younger daughter. The youngest of them all. The rebel. The feisty one. The fighter. Quick in thought, generous at heart and strong in spirit. She is a lot like myself but also a lot like her mother. Intelligent, independent and indomitable. She shares the same passion for education and learning that I have but I feel we did not bond over it as much as we could have. But why am I telling you this! We should be talking about me.
As I turn my gaze further into the crowd I see my grandchildren. The most well behaved and smart grandchildren I could have ever asked for. Though I have been hard on them at times, I have always known they were destined to achieve great things. They are all on their way to achieving a good standing in the society, and that makes me a proud, proud grandfather. But why am I telling you this!
I turn away from my grandchildren and look towards the middle of all the emotion. And there she is. My wife. Her name literally means goddess earth and she couldn’t do her name any more justice than she already does. Always patient, always considerate, always caring. Always busy. My underappreciated support system over the years. I can’t imagine what I would have done or even if I could have done anything without her help and support. But why am I telling you this! This was supposed to be me learning about me not telling about me. So let’s look at me.
There, beside my wife is my body. The being that used to be me. It’s a strange and inexplicable feeling, looking at yourself. Yes, I’ve looked at myself many times in the past but all I ever saw was a reflection of my own mind at that point of time. But now as I see me, I see my real self. I see my achievements, I see my mistakes. I see my successes, I see my failures. I see everything. Without any of the ego, self judgement or self-partiality to cloud my vision, I can clearly see past my outer façade, into my inner abyss and glare into the parts of me that I have hidden even from myself over the years. Here, I see my true self. Here, I learn about that self.
I see a lot of things that define me. What is it that defines us the most – the work we do? The cars we drive? The food we eat? But all those only define us to the world. What defines me to myself – how I feel about people? How I show my emotions? How I don’t show my emotions? I might have never acted like one, but I really loved and cared about the people around me. The problem is, I don’t express it so well. The more I love a person, the more I try to hide it. The closer I feel to a person, the more distant I can seem when I am with them. The more I care about someone, the more irritable I am around them. Being a teacher for so many years, I had become accustomed to interacting with people the same way as I did with my students – stern, authoritarian and impersonal. When I do try to show my love, it often comes out as overly critical of the other person or even as self-aggrandizement sometimes. I am proud of myself and what I have done in my life. Sometimes that pride morphs into ego and gets in the way of my interactions with those around me, alienating myself from others. I never truly cared about it before, “because that’s the way I am” I told myself. But now, I think I could have done better. Tried harder. It’s not regret, it’s more like an afterthought. Because whatever has happened, I am very happy with my life. I have lived a full, healthy and respectful life.
But why am I telling you this? Because I have never talked to any of those that I love about any of this. I have never opened up to anyone about all these feelings. I have never told them how thankful I am that they were a part of my life. I have never told them how much I really needed them to keep me happy. I feel they might already know all this but I want them to hear it from me. Be my voice and tell them for me, won’t you..?