Monday, January 14, 2008

Some observations on death

My grandmother passed away today. My mom called me as I was on my way to the Dallas Cowboys playoff game with Partha, Madhu and Thombre. I was the first person she called, as she knew it would me daytime in the US. It was not unexpected, she was 93 years old. And it happened very peacefully for her, in her sleep.
I did not feel anything on hearing the news. I did not tell anyone else (whats the point ?). I am going back ASAP to India, not because I want to pay my last respects to her, but because I want to be with my parents at this time, especially my dad. I remember when my grandfather died, I was still in high school. Then too, I do not remember feeling sad, or any sense of loss. Actually I don't remember ever feeling grief at a death. Have I accepted death as a part of life ?
And this is also the reason why I have never really been able to empathize with other people who go through such an experience. I say the words .. sorry about your loss .. but i am really not. I am concerned about the person who suffers through it, but as far as the dead person is concerned, to me its like a chapter that ends. You move on to the next page.
I have had tears in my eyes at times, sometimes even while watching movies (yes, I confess. If Tys can be brave enough, I can too :-) ). But I think the emotions have been other than grief. Maybe it is just a profusion of emotions. But I don't recall ever crying because I was sad. Maybe I am a cold bastard !!!
Now does that mean I am not afraid of death ? I think the possibility of just missing death is what scares me most. Losing any/some physical abilities is more scary than actual death. And I am a proponent of Euthanasia.

Why is our society so fixated on life ? I think it happens more in the "civilized' societies. Any death is something to be avoided at all costs. Millions of dollars are spent on medical research on obscure diseases just because a few people die from it per year, when the same resources can make thousands of lives "better". When it comes to life/death, we start making decisions that are totally irrational. We will keep people on life support for ages, knowing fully well that there is no possibility of recovery, and also no way to ever interact with that person. The premium attached to the boundary between life and death is orders of magnitude more than the premium attached to the boundary between a "good" life and plain survival.
Is it guilt at not doing everything possible to save a life ? Is it a sort of insurance - that if/when your turn comes, you are assured that similar efforts will be made ? Because people are afraid of death ? I would like to see this studied scientifically. Create a measure for "life premium" .. and track it across time and social conditions. Use regression analysis to find causal factors !!! Statistics ! now that's something worse than death for me ;-)