Death is the action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism.
Death is one of our biggest fears.
Death is permanent.
Death is final.
Death is scary.
Death is tragic.
Death is never easy.
Death just doesn’t seem natural.
Death is a fate we will all share one day.
Has the repetition of the word death made it any easier for me to come to terms with the concept of death? Not one bit. But this is my moment to pass on a message to death. We will (try) not be afraid.
I’ve lost both my Grandmothers, but I was way too young to truly understand and feel the pain but the first time grief well and truly struck me was the sudden and tragic death of my best friend’s cousin’s Father, Kevin. I was probably 22 at the time and it really was a shock to the family. This was an unexpected death. He died from a heart attack. Although I didn’t know Kevin well, I knew he was a good man, a good father, and a good friend. Their tragedy was my tragedy as I watched my best friend and her family go through such a painful experience.
Sudden departures are the hardest ones to grasp, aren’t they? Because you don’t get a final goodbye, you don’t get to stall time, you don’t have a choice – And all of a sudden your world turns into a state of shock. You’re paralysed by the pain and all you feel is complete numbness and heartache.
Being so close to my second South African family who has welcomed me into their home over the last 10 years of my life – feeling, hearing and experiencing what they’re going through is unthinkable, and inevitably it hurts you too. But I think what hurts us most is realising that we’re all going to go through that pain one day – of really losing someone so dear and so close to our hearts. Someone we really, full-heartedly love.
During these times of support, we feel the grief from the moment the news strikes – at the funeral service, the burial and soon after – but in reality and quite truthfully our pain disappears much faster than the person or family that’s just been left behind. They are the ones who are truly suffering. They carved out lives, they shared hopes and dreams, built foundations, shared values and created memories to last a lifetime. This death taught me the importance of being there for the people we love but now – looking back – it makes you realise that time is healing.
The second time grief struck me was when a very dear and old friend that I hadn’t spoken to for many years committed suicide as a result of severe depression. This was a different kind of death. This was as a result of mental illness. He believed he wasn’t worthy for the world anymore. His darkness overtook his light. His mind overtook his life. And suicide is one of the saddest kinds of death – because it is preventative. It’s also tragic because in our heads we all play the blame game – where did we go wrong? Did we not do enough? Did we as a collective create too much of a stigma around mental health? Did we ignore the signs, because we didn’t believe it could happen to us? Our friends? Our family? Our circle of connections? Did we fail to acknowledge that men are allowed to have feelings, emotions and that it doesn’t make them any less of a man if they cried or needed help?
I guess I saw Ben’s death as such a tragedy because he felt like my brother from another mother. He was so smart, so witty, so talented but he didn’t hold on long enough to realise what life would have offered him if he held on just a lil’ longer.
The third time grief struck me was on the 27th of January 2016, when my Grandfather died. Our beloved Akong (in Chinese/Indonesian), after 93-years of age. He was a kind man. He loved to eat and drink tea, he had the biggest belly ever, always ordering noodles and just absolutely loved food. One time, he even said to my Mother, “I never have any money, all my money is in my tummy.” Haha, god don’t we have that in common.
I remember when we first moved to Australia, both my Grandparents came over to look after me. I was lucky enough to have spent some time with him over 3 years ago in Jakarta, Indonesia.
I remember looking around his room and seeing it filled with the things he loved; fans, photographs, birds in cages, tea, paintings and always had the Chinese news playing in the background. He would only wear shirts that were easy to take off and he was a very well-groomed man – even when he hit his 90’s.
At first, when I was told he had died, I felt complete numbness. I wasn’t shocked, we knew it was coming but when it happens, it never feels real. This is age-related frailty death and it is not curable. But he lived a long and wonderful life. He had 7 children, 23, grandchildren and over 27 great Grandchildren, leaving behind a legacy – creating life for generations to come. I am a part of this generation, and I can only hope I can be as generous and kind as he was.
On the 18th of February, 2016, grief struck me for the fourth time. I’m writing this after attending an old family friend’s funeral. Joseph died unexpectedly from a fatal heart attack. He left behind his wife and three children. Samantha was just about to get married. We knew them for over 10 years. My parents knew them for over 15 years. They were best friends. We just spent Christmas with them. If I had known it was going to be the last time I’d see him, I probably wouldn’t have left their place so early. I probably would have hugged him tighter and said “You’re one hell of a happy guy and the world needs more people like you. Thank you.”
The thing is, just like love, there are all kinds of grief we’ll feel from death. I used to be so afraid of the concept of death, but perhaps death is the only thing that propels us into becoming the best versions of ourselves? My fear of death is a wake-up call that we’re put on this earth for some kind of purpose and the only way to do it, is to live life by our own terms, chasing our dreams and essentially spreading positivity wherever we can. Death, as uncomfortable as it seems, somehow has a way of bringing us closer together. Don’t you think?
We all want to believe that there’s more out there than this world, beyond death. We like to believe that it has the power to heal and give us more clarity. I never want to take my life for granted, knowing that it could all be gone tomorrow in the blink of an eye.
I never want to take my life for granted, knowing that it could all be gone tomorrow in the blink of an eye. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been a life enthusiast. Time is fleeting, nothing is permanent and it ain’t gonna be pretty everyday but we can at least try?
These four significant deaths, to me, are a simple reminder of the things we take for granted every day that are not promised. The family, the friends we have, the simplicity of life and everyday moments.
Life is precious.
Life is fun.
Life is like a fucking roller coaster.
Life is ours for the taking.
We only get one shot at life, roll with it wisely.
Rest In Peace to all those who have come, gone and are watching over us.
Nat Asia xx ❤️✨