Sunday, September 18, 2016

Death, be not proud

Death, be not proud 
By John Donne

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Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 

Our dear Aunt, Ankichi Periamma as we all called her , passed away today. Our mother's oldest sister whose 100th birthday we celebrated a couple of years ago. 
Periamma who has been a presence in my life ever since I can remember . Loving , giving , caring - the embodiment of kindness and affection .
It is difficult to imagine our family , our world, without her . She was always there . And her children , our beloved cousins are now bereft . My heart broke and swelled with pride and compassion as I saw them perform all the rites exactly as she would have liked them too. Dressed in the traditional nine yard Saree , my cousins and sisters in law were quiet , efficient pillars of strength to their husbands . And as they adorned her body with a Saree in her favourite colour , her granddaughters , themselves young mothers were inconsolable . The young boys in the family , grandsons and grandsons in law stood by at hand , conscious of every single need of their fathers and uncles and in seconds rushing off to comply with whatever was required. As the priest chanted the mantras and gave his solemn instructions , it slowly sank into my mind too. Life had left the body . But seeing her calm and sweet visage I knew that Periamma would always be in our lives. She will live on in our memories and in all that she has taught us over so many years. For three generations of us . 
We watched as she was carried out sheltered and protected from the pouring rain and into the waiting van . Then she was gone .
I came home, called Delhi and spoke to my sorrowing grief stricken mother . Periamma's youngest sister whom she had taught, at the age of 6 or so the importance of being well behaved and well dressed . "Look at that little girl in far away America"  , she would say, I believe , to our hyper active and tomboyish mother. "Not a hair out of place, and she goes to work for a living. "  My mother would look at her married 18 year old big sister questioningly . " Haven't you heard of Shirley Temple ?" Periamma would ask her.  
My mother has never tired of recounting this to us . 
Today also my mother could only say , yes, she is gone but no one can take away her counsel from us. She lives on . 

So, yes, Death, be not proud . 

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