Bomb blasts, murders, robberies. She grew up reading about these every morning in the newspaper. The concept of death however remained a mystery. If she ever overheard adults in the household talk about or mourn a relative’s or a friend’s death, she would enclose herself in a shell and talk to her imaginary friends about what followed in the after life (if there was one) or what those last moments felt like. In her formative years, her thoughts about life and death expanded and began to invite debate and discussion but the question of what the finality of an end feels like, never left her.
She once stood up in an auditorium full of aspiring architects and asked a famous architect who was presenting his works, “How do you feel when you have to see a building you built, die?” The speaker was stunned and decided to discuss the question at the subsequent panel discussion which eventually never happened due to lack of time. Never one to give up, she sought out her favorite professor in college one day and had a lengthy discussion, hoping to find the answers.
She began to slowly understand that every living thing has a definite life span. Life and death are equals and have to be treated as such. It is the passion with which one builds buildings or his/her life is what eventually counts. She also learnt that buildings too have to be treated as living organisms which metamorphosise over time and eventually meet their end. Death eventually started to “make sense” to her.
Today, as she drove to work, images from the past came back in a rush. It was the second week at her new job and she took the same route to and from work every day. This route took her past a cosy one-storey building which stood at the corner of a traffic light. She observed how the landscape comprising green shrubs, pretty flowering plants and delicate vines over wooden posts made the structure look right out of a fairy tale. The signage in bold metallic letters however read ‘Spangler Mortuary.’
The drive past the mortuary every morning and evening in the last week had tugged at some painful strings in her heart. The grief over the sudden death of her best friend five years ago, was still raw. It was the one thing she had not been able to come to terms with, till date. It all still seemed like a haze. It was on that fateful day that she finally rid her mind of the shell she had built as a child, realizing that no protective shield or armour could give her comfort or reprieve from such a great loss. In some odd way, death gave a whole new meaning to her life now.
She looked down, as she parked her car, at her growing belly, and wondered again if a dear soul was returning to her life. Maybe like life, even death was not permanent. Maybe every death was the beginning of a new life.