My uncle died today after having seemingly recovered from a fall, with less than a week left for his son’s planned marriage. I didn’t know what to say when I went to visit my cousin. Instead, I spent a long time listening to others attempting to console him and my aunt. And thinking about what was being said.
My cousin was blaming himself for giving his father some medicines, wondering whether they had an adverse effect. I listened to people consoling him by talking of fate, how people die when their “time comes”, and how nothing that he did or did not do would have changed that “time”.
My aunt was mourning the tragic timing of the death. I listened to people consoling her by telling her that one’s entire life is determined when one is born, but we don’t know it and have to live through it.
I listened to people say that one should not grieve over the dead because it causes anguish to the dead man’s soul.
I listened to people say that my uncle would be reborn as my cousin’s child.
Inevitably, the occasion brought back memories of the time when I lost my father almost 10 years back. I was 19 then. Nowhere as mature in my thoughts as I am now. But I didn’t believe in fate, souls or rebirth then. I knew that the loss was permanent. I remember refusing to pay tribute to my father’s body saying “That is not my father”. For weeks, I was aware of the loss in every conscious moment. Thanks to Ayn Rand, I held on to one thought: I will not allow this to affect me. I succeeded.
Sad as it is, the death of one’s loved ones is a part of life and all of us have to deal with it at one time or another. Death always gives us a rude shock, it shows us that our plans can be overturned in an instant, that we are not fully in control of our lives. To deal with that, one needs to find some way to reduce the anxiety one feels when one is not in control. And fate is the way people have invented to do that. Instead of serenely accepting a world where there are many things over which they lack control, people prefer a world where everything is out of their control. Perhaps it helps them. I don’t know. It wouldn’t help me.