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Questions of age and death

Last week, my father’s eldest brother completed 65 years. All family members celebrated it. While on that day, he had fun along with all of us, a few days before and after that, he has not really been his usual witty and sarcastic self. And the reason for this change can be traced back to a death that happened before his birthday.

A very dear friend of his passed away at 69. And since then, he has been living as if he is approaching a hypothetical and self-imposed deadline, both veritably and literally. He reprimands his son, my cousin, for the way he spends his time. He complains to his wife that she is not sitting and conversing with him enough. And all this is happening while he is hale and hearty. His diet and fitness regime gives nightmares to our gym-hitting cousins. The oxygen and haemoglobin levels in his blood can give anyone in his mid-40s a run for his money.

And hence comes a volley of questions about geriatric psychology. Why the mind in a healthy body is behaving in a fragile manner? Why a perfectly working brain is having this rationale that he may meet his end by the age of 69 just because one of his friends met that fate at that age? Why is he ignoring that there are other friends and relatives of his who are doing fine even at the age of 80? Does it take the loss of someone dear to realise mortality or does this kind of loss give the illusion of death reaching fast? Is there any late-life crisis he is going through in an emotional void or turbulence? And most important, why is he not discussing it directly with all of us? We have to decipher all of these through his actions and implicit dialogues, both spoken and unspoken.

While there can be many philosophical and psychological answers to all these questions, one significant question stands out. If my uncle is not discussing all of this with us, why aren’t we taking the initiative of triggering a dialogue about our observations of his changed behaviour? We may be grossly wrong or bang on with our deciphering. But still we are also hesitant in approaching him to have a conversation about and around it.

It may be because the dialogue about death and mortality needs more courage than the realisation of mortality itself. Or it may be because we are content witnessing him through a glass wall, while he is looking at death through another glass wall.

vishnumaheshsharma@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 1:48:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/questions-of-age-and-death/article34567486.ece

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