If you’re superstitious about death, and especially about talking about it, you may want to skip this post.
I have been having a bit of an existential crisis lately.
I’ve been thinking: what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is the purpose of us being here if it just gets snatched away so quickly? Why is life so short?
All this was triggered by recent events- my grandma’s passing, the AirAsia plane that crashed, and the passing of one of my ex-colleagues.
My grandma passed away in early December 2014, and as her health had been deteriorating rapidly, we were all steeling ourselves for the inevitable. As such, her death was not unexpected- as a matter of fact it was a relief, as she was freed from the pain she was experiencing, and we believe that she has returned to God and found peace.
Her passing was the first time I experienced the death of a loved one in conscious memory, and I am still very sad about it. We were close, and I still sometimes cry when I talk or think about her.
The next incident to trigger my admittedly morbid thoughts was the crash of the AirAsia flight, QZ8501. 2014 has been terrible for aviation as a whole, but QZ8501 really hit close to home for two reasons. The first was that the flight was en route to Singapore from Surabaya, and the second was that I found out a friend of a friend of a friend had been on the flight. I’ve been following the story in the papers and, well, I’m a very emotional person, so reading about all the people left behind, and all the lives that have been cut short, really breaks my heart.
The third thing that made me start questioning was the passing of my ex-colleague. She had had a common flu that became a lung infection, and she fell critically ill. She fell unconscious and was in intensive care for six weeks, before her lungs gave way and she passed away on New Year’s Day. She was in her early forties, and while that would have been old to me ten years ago now it just seems so terribly young.
So all this has added up, and I’ve been thinking. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Why do these things happen? Why does life get cut short? Are we really resigned to the fates we have been assigned, or can we change our destiny? Am I making the most of my time here in this world? What if today was my last day? What am I doing with my life? My questions are numerous.
In my Grandma’s case, her death was not unexpected. As a matter of fact, she was in so much pain and suffering we were all praying for God to spare her from the pain and take her home to him. But now that I’ve been thinking, I thought back to something my aunt mentioned. She said that the reason why my grandma stayed around so long was so that we all could have a chance to say our goodbyes, and so that she could see our family drawing closer together around her before moving on to join God. And indeed, being with her in her last days did bond my family, and we found solidarity with each other as we grieved. We are now closer than ever before, and we have my Grandma to thank for that.
But I’ve still got so many questions, and thinking back to QZ8501 and my ex-colleague’s passing, I don’t know what the answers are.
In the Sunday Times on 5 January, I read about the funerals that were being held for those on the flight whose bodies have been recovered, and it just broke my heart to read about the 11-year-old boy, Grayson Herbert Linaksita, who had been on the flight with his family. He was only eleven, and he lost his life in the crash- his life was snuffed out, just like that, and it makes me so sad. Reading all the other stories also upset me- lives gone in a flash, and what can we mere mortals do in the face of such disaster?
Hearing about my ex-colleague also affected me. I knew she was ill and that she was in intensive care, but I had hope that she would pull through because she was still young, and as far as I knew she had no medical conditions or ailments. But alas, she passed on, and when I visited her wake to pay my respects, seeing her family so distraught made me really start questioning.
Death is inevitable, that is true. But it is when death strikes suddenly, without any warning, that it truly ruins us and devastates us, because, well, it’s like an ambush. All of a sudden, someone you knew, someone you loved, is gone, and what can we do?
In that moment, we are helpless.
Life is short. Life is fleeting, and life is fragile. I don’t have the answers to any of my questions, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I’ve gained some understanding through my reflections, and it is this.
Life is short, and we must cherish it. We are all merely mortal- and all we can do is make the most of the time we have here on earth.