When someone dies and in their life that person was selfish and unpleasant, their death is harder to overcome for their relatives than the death of someone who was loved and admired by all. When someone who was loved and admired dies, their relatives feel that a legacy was left to follow and with their departure, their soul becomes a part of them and in their death they celebrate the life of their loved one and vow to continue their path. When someone who was selfish and unpleasant dies, their relatives forever remain with a question mark, wandering about their selfish life and the degree of their involvement in shaping that person’s character. Guilt and regret showers the family with questions such as: where have we gone wrong?
When my grandpa Menachem passed away, everyone cried like they cry for the loss of a good and beloved mentor. When my grandpa Joseph passed away, everyone shed tears of relief and self pity. Grandpa Menachem had cancer. Grandpa Joseph had dementia. Both grandparents surly suffered dying. I’m ashamed to admit that perhaps the medications given to grandpa Joseph and the treatment from his own sons and grandchildren (excluding the care he was given by my grandma in a cold, Bulgarian loyal wife manner) killed his soul long before his body gave up.
When I visited the hospital several weeks before his body stopped functioning, it seemed to me as if the weak groans he still managed to produce from his fading throat were a last attempt to tell us everything that he was hiding in his heart for all those years – all his secret wishes, all his desires and disappointments, all the life he wanted to live. In the hospital, I noticed that he could still see, hear and feel but could not express the sensations forced on him by the world in a way anyone could understand. I’ve asked my dad to buy him a portable music player with headphones so he would at least be able to listen to operas he liked so much and which functioned as the soundtrack for his fading life when he was still at home and mentally abusing my grandma. Dad dismissed it with a vague excuse about too many wires and tubes attached to my grandpa already. He dismissed it, despite other patients with no less tubes and wires than my grandpa wearing headphones in the ward. Other patients were also allowed flowers, teddy bears and pictures of their loved ones on their beside table. My grandpa’s bed side table was empty and his environment was full of loneliness and silence.
The sadness of a loss of unfulfilled life leaves deep doubts within those who still walk the earth. Their walk might become heavy and slow as if their legs are chained with guilt and regret. Or, they can easily rise from the ground and fly on the wings of a soul which has nothing left to do other than forgive.
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