Like Water into Sand: Reflections on Living and Dying

  • Seventeen years ago, my sister walked out our front door and never came home. She was only twenty-one when she was the victim of a car accident. Her wave goodbye as she left our house for the last time is forever etched into my memory.  
  • One Saturday in 2008, everything was as it always seemed, an evening of enjoyment like many we have had before; until a friend of mine collapsed and died. That moment was irrevocably traumatizing as I had never witnessed death before.  
  • Ten summers ago, a childhood friend called our house phone and we talked and laughed for hours. The only thing out of the blue was that her phone call, that day, came after we had just spoken the day before. The following day, she was gone; a victim of a sudden heart attack. 
  • About four weeks ago, news came that a dear sister of mine had passed. The thought never crossed my mind that the conversation we last had would be our very last. That night, I went to bed with a tidal wave of thoughts and emotions flooding in my mind. 

In the process of writing this, I reflected on loved ones who have passed and the loss is ever tremendous. This era of technological advancement has changed the way death is announced to us, especially for us who have strong cultural practices and protocols around the death of a loved one. Over the last ten years, I have found out about most of the deaths of those who were a part of my life through posts on social media.  
One cannot deny that in our community we are also dying younger. 
When a loved one dies without warning; it leaves so much unfinished and unsaid. Little things like watching a movie they wanted to see or buying that dress they wanted to wear. To deeply intimate unfinished conversations you once had about dreams, wishes and goals; now permanently incomplete. Your world, as you know it, is changed forever.  
I often think about the week my mom was hospitalized before her passing, she had asked me repeatedly to dye her hair. I kept it on the list of things to do, but it stayed on the list. After she had passed away and I was packing away her things, I came across that box of hair-dye still sitting in the bathroom shelf unopened. Even today, that box of hair-dye reminds me of never getting around to doing what she had asked of me. 
We do things on the daily that perhaps we no longer notice or take for granted or are even annoyed by because they seem like burdens, only because you’re so used to them. It is so very easy to assume that you will get to do them all again or later, or experience them again or see people again, but you may very well not be able to do so.  
If we could know when we were experiencing moments with those we love for the very last time, I know that we would give them every ounce of joy that they deserve.  
Perhaps it is cliché to say but savor every moment of life as if it were you last. We tend to never really value its true meaning until life takes you there. No one is born with a blueprint or map on life. We learn as we live. Dying is inescapable. It is the cycle of life. Eventually, everything and everyone will die.  
I have never feared death. My only fear is leaving this world never having accomplished the things I wanted to experience in life. Fancy things, like dining at the Eiffel tower to simple things like watching the sunrise on a sandy beach. For someone who grew up on an island, I have never experienced that. 

In this age and time, we get easily distracted by our gadgets and become oblivious to what is happening right in front of us.  

May we be present in the moment.  

May we be more alive while living. 

The death of a loved one lingers on in our lives, eventually we learn to adapt without them, but the pain never goes away. They say grieving is the price we pay for love. I do not want to grieve. I want to live. May we relish and celebrate life with all the ups and downs, good and bad, its joys and pain. 

This opportunity to be able to share our stories of resilience and courage is a blessing. It has given me both therapy and healing. I only hope the same for you. Someone once said, “there’s a purpose for our pain.” It may have been a dark time for you but it brought light to others.  

Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep.

Delia Owen