• Shreya Teresita

Let's Talk Death

A screenshot from the Pixar movie, Coco.

I'm absolutely sure I'm not the only freak who thinks about it. I started watching Grey's Anatomy around five years ago. Two episodes in, and I was in love with this TV series more than I ever had been with a real boy. But as I binged-watched the medical drama, something horrible was happening inside my head.

Day in and day out, I was watching how people die in hospitals. People came in through the ER doors of Seattle Grace Hospital (now Grey Sloan Memorial), and never made it out alive. Forget bomb blasts and plane crashes; on Grey's Anatomy, people died of hiccups.

Yes, hiccups. Meredith Grey's step-mum died of hiccups.

Before I knew it, this idea had settled in my head: Fuck cancer, people die of coughing too loud. You may survive nine nail shots to the head, and then learn you have a tumor that can't be fixed. You can go to ER with a slight chest burn, and end up bleeding out in an operating room at the end of the day. Or maybe you will go under anesthesia for a routine surgery...and never wake up. That is the worst.

With each emotionally-charged episode, I became more and more obsessed with death than I had ever been about a real boy (at this point, you are wondering what is wrong with my love life, aren't you?).

There could've been two common outcomes of this obsession. One, I could've become experimentally self-destructive (you know, drawn to suicide). Or two, I could've grown paranoid about death. I, however, had a third sort of reaction.

Lying in my hostel bed in the thick of Chennai summer, it just hit me out of the blue. I'm going to die one day. Maybe like George O'Malley, hit by a bus on an ordinary day. Or like Lexie Grey, in a plane crash. Or like Teddy Altman's husband, I won't survive a surgery. There were so many ways for it to happen, so easy. And yet, it wasn't. Death isn't easy, at least not by the looks of Lexie's face sandwiched under a crashed plane.

I felt scared for a bit, yes. But mostly, I was just sad. There was this overwhelming wave of self-pity drowning me about this realisation. I was going to die one day, and there is nothing I can do about it.

It will happen. To you, to me, to everybody. And it is stupid to be scared about it, because there is no way to fight it off. And we also sort of practice it every night by falling asleep. How scary can it be, right?

Seriously, you really feel that way? Then imagine this: Forget about how it will happen -- from an accident, from a disease, whatever -- forget the thought the of the pain. Think about the last moments before it all comes to an end. You are breathing, maybe gasping for air, and you are looking around. That light you see, those trees or that face...you are seeing that for the last time.

All those 20, 30, 50, 80 years of your life are behind you, and you just have minutes left now. You have no more time to do anything anymore. Very soon, you will no longer be able to see, hear, speak, smell, breathe, or think again.

Your friends, family, that doctor attending you, that actor you have a crush on, they will all continue to exist. Your favourite show will go on, politics will continue, technology will improve...your family will grow bigger. Only you won't be there to enjoy any of it. And there is nothing you can do about it.

If you are awake, you will feel it. Your body giving up, your lungs failing you. You might want to, or try hard to, hold on to your senses, hold on to anyone's hand around you. But that won't help. Everything will eventually grow darker, and you will know that this is the last time you see anything.

Take a moment and imagine that, preferably in a dark, isolated room. Can you imagine that feeling?

All our lives, we are made to grow accustomed to move on to something else after one thing ends. School ends, college begins; that ends, work life comes along. Your spouse dies, you're encouraged to move on from that too.

And then, you are on your deathbed (or a ditch, maybe), and you have no fucking idea what comes after this. Everything as you know is coming to an end in minutes. There is no text book or thumb rule that can guide you through it. You will have to do it all alone, without experience.

You will die, and there is nothing you can do about it. You will have no control, no power over this moment, over your own body at this point. You cannot will for it to stop. All those long debates about power and consent will get an ironic kick in the teeth. The god of death -- or whatever -- will not seek your permission when it's time for you to kick the bucket.

And then, there is the whole after-life to think about. But more importantly, what if there isn't any?

What if there is no heaven, no soul that is left behind? What if death is just a great, black limbo? Or what if there is nothing at all? What if you're just...gone? Can you imagine not existing? Do you think that will be any easier than life?

And if you do continue to exist as a spirit (uh....), when will that end? Are you expected to linger as a puff of energy till the end of time?

What if there is no god? No chance to meet anyone you ever loved, dead or alive? What if there is no second life? You just get one shot at it, a few decades, and then it's all over.

The world goes on without you. If you are a celebrity, you are remembered. You get a golden casket if you're Micheal Jackson, or constant invocation by fast car fans if you're Paul Walker.

But if you are an ordinary person, your memory and your yearly services last for two to three generations. After that, you are forgotten. Period.

It'll be like you never even existed.

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