Farewell To My Grandmother

Initially this post was going to be about the time when I got stood up on a date on last Saturday. Typically enough, these things happen to me because, well, I am not exactly sure why. Something else happened the following day which made the unfortunate event less important, if it ever had any importance. I lost my grandmother. It doesn’t find anywhere in the current context of this blog, but this is part of this lifetime, and it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever written.

Her life wasn’t easy. Grandmother always said – going through life isn’t the same as crossing the field – it’s a literal translation, it carried more profound meaning when it was said by her, in Russian. She was born in 1940 Russia when the hardships of war and post-war trauma was weighting heavily on the generation betrayed by the ruling class, the same class which was sent to be slaughtered by Stalin and his parasite huntsmen. The lack of faith in the future and bitter memory of the past was passed on with mothers’ milk to the youth which had no future other than mere survival inflamed by boredom, hard labour and alcoholism. Yet one thing which always remained untainted was love.

My grandmother had a tough start to her life. Being born into peasant family, she got married at the age of 17 to the love of her life, a handsome young man, my grandfather whom I never met. By the age of 25 she already had two young boys and an alcoholic husband. Alcohol, infidelity and violence was a shadow placed upon young woman’s life who didn’t know any better, in fact nobody knew any better, this was the characteristics of the era of the post war small Russian village. However love that she had for my grandfather soothed her existence over the years. Even after his death, she would often speak of him, the love of her life, Nikolay.

Widowed at the age of 33 she remained faithful to him till the end of her life. She lived alone in the remote town called Energetic, Orenburg. She’d come visit both of her sons for a few months every couple of years to look after her grandchildren. I remember her being incredibly stubborn and stern, sometimes clumsy and very protective of her sons which drove my mother mad, but she was also kind and unconditionally loved her grandchildren.

I also remember heated arguments I had with my mother who’d often compare me to grandmother. She criticised my adolescent bitterness, stubbornness and defiance as if it was an inherited flaw. I desperately tried to shake it off, only to realise years later that a so called flaw in character is a flaw my grandmother had no control over. Can you blame somebody for being born into a society which was destroyed and demoralised  by war and poverty?  A flaw which drove a desperate woman to find herself at the edge of the cliff with two young boys and as if by the same flaw she found her way back to the long lost faith in the future.

I treasure every bit of that flaw I have in me because I am the woman today because of this woman and I am sorry I will never be able to tell her that. I’m terribly sorry. I am sorry I haven’t seen her in more than ten years, I am terribly sorry I didn’t say ‘I love you my darling’ enough. She died in a care home alone, two days before her 77th birthday, far away from where she was born and lived all her life. She often spoke about how she wished to be buried next to her beloved Nikolay, I am sorry her wish didn’t come true. There aren’t enough sorries in the world to redeem the hard life she had. I only hope, that wherever she is right now, she’s at peace in the sweet embrace with the man she loved. R.I.P my darling. I will miss you forever.

Farewell To My Grandmother

The Generation Is On The Way Out: Farewell To Oliver Sacks

Sacks2

Oliver Sacks, a celebrated neurologist and author of numerous books, has peacefully died in his New York home at the age of 82. First time I learned about Oliver Sacks was from the New York Times article published back in May, where he released the statement on losing his longtime battle with cancer. It’s a shame it took so long for me to find him, it’s a bigger shame to lose him so soon.

I may be dying, but I’m not done with living. As he once was telling great stories of life, he is now teaching us the art of dying. It’s not without the fear. Fear cannot be concealed under veneer of optimism or nobility, neither can it be demonised for it’s undeniability. It’s real and fear of death is just as natural as our fear of life, but where is fear, is hope. And even on the death bed, we don’t lose the hope, hope for something bigger than us, something larger than life. Not all of us have the privilege of reflecting upon our lives in our final hour, yet those who can, express the clarity which can only be learned in the face of death – gratitude for living.

Oliver Sacks

Whenever someone genius passes away I treat it as a great loss for humanity. When somebody like Oliver Sacks passes away, a little bit of hope dies away in me. I can’t help but project the dystopian ideas onto this world, being widely aware that despite achieving the highest level of technological and scientific evolution, we are in fact experiencing the days of decadence, the darkness of the soul and ignorance of the mind.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. – Dr. Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks has gained an un usual popularity with the public, unlike any other physician. Mainly for his exquisite talent for writing. His eloquence and ability to transcribe a human tragedy into a story of unique characters with the past and future, despite their tragic present. Never have I been engaged in a scientific book as I was in Awakenings, which despite all of it’s medical terminology, captivated me unlike any other stories I’ve read. Despite criticism coming from scientists in the field, Dr. Sacks wasn’t looking into the traditional pathology on human neurological condition.

His insatiable curiosity and imagination has stirred the conventional diagnosis and shone the light of consciousness upon anyone who was open to see it. We tend to generalise neurological conditions as a mere defect of the human form, but what if a neurological condition is a different way of conceptualising the world, translating signals and vibrations from the universe in a unique way, think which is alien to conventional medicine and science. Dr. Oliver Sacks was went through his life illuminating darkest corners of human perception. He spoke to human soul clearer than any scientist ever could.

RIP Dr. Oliver Sacks

The Generation Is On The Way Out: Farewell To Oliver Sacks

The Gift Of Time

Every year, starting with the new years resolutions that last precisely until the pay day at the end of January, the whole northern hemisphere is waiting in anticipation the glorious 3 months of summer. People like to set mental deadlines for themselves and the major deadline starts on the 22nd of June with a greeting of calendar beginning of the summer. Not only summer is beaming with prospects of countless music festivals, BBQ and return of the smokers garden, but it could also mean finding that one missing link that will make your life complete – a new relationship, new job offer, new adventure or something as simple as better tan. It’s a fact. Everything seems better in summer. Then, we set another milestone for ourselves called Autumn. You tell yourself you won’t go out so much, you quit smoking in Stoptober, you’ll go the month without a drink, and eventually you’ll grow a moustache in November. Next thing you know it’s Christmas and that’s the way this wheel keeps on turning. However despite not being able to freeze the time, I drew a mental line at summer, and here’s why.

The funeral of summer to me starts with the first day of September. The reason for that would be simply because for the 12 years of my life, 1st of September signified the begging of the school year slash the end of freedom. Having in mind that it’s been almost ten years since I graduated from my high school, I feel the urge to celebrate this day every year with nostalgia towards the time when life was a lot simpler and dreams were still going strong. Although, thinking back, I hardly remember having any realistic dreams apart from being famous fashion designer or performer. Yet perhaps it was blessing in disguise because I had a fair chance to mold my life into whatever I wanted it to be without a risk of disappointing myself for not fulfilling my own expectations. Self nagging can be rather annoying sometime. Especially when you aren’t 100% sure who is this nagging voice inside your head! Regardless of what sentiment September brings, to me, this year, the month of September became the month to reflect rather than act. If not now, then I am afraid I’ll fast forward through something very important. How often can you take a gift of time? Put your life on hold, take two steps back and look at how far you’ve made it? What have you learned, what have you lost and found?

Imagine that moment you were born you jumped of the cliff. You can only fall down for a 100 years more or less, and the moment when you touch the ground, will also be the moment you die. Then why are we is such a hurry to fall faster or farther? Why not to take a breather and experience the bliss of a free fall?

Summer  2014 proved to be a cruel summer for many people including those who lived and those who passed. I was personally touched by a loss of a friend and I could not be more sure that sometimes,  the most wonderful time of the year , can also be the loneliest and the saddest time of the year. They call it “broken promise effect” when one is experiencing crushing disappointment of unfulfilled hopes that spring and summer fails to bring to the sufferer. True that we all have certain dreams associated with the velvet pleasure of summer afternoon sun, whether this is in a circle of friends, or in the company of your beloved, or simply enjoying the sweetness of chilled sauvignon blanc in the beach cafe while gazing at the horizon, listening to waves crashing at the shore, washing footsteps away. But what happens when the anticipated promised fun never ceased to appear? What if that trip never happens or that you didn’t meet that special somebody who will share those magical moments with you while kissing passionately on the London Bridge? Those little things that seem to make our life magical and worth living sometimes,for some unexplained reasons, don’t happen and does it really matter? Not if you don’t stop and ask yourself what could you have done differently, what did you need to do in order to make those things happen?

It’s impossible to experience on this melancholic summertime sadness without making a poetic interpretation of human experience and sometimes all so tragic human condition. This summer has been a summer of great changes, great losses, great hopes and great disappointments, as well as great lessons and great milestones. And I only know it because at some point I chose to press pause, get a cup of tea and relax. This may not be analogy applicable to everyone, but I’ll include it anyway. One wise man put life it this way: Imagine that moment you were born you jumped of the cliff. You can only fall down for a 100 years more or less, and the moment when you touch the ground, will also be the moment you die. Then why are we is such a hurry to fall faster or farther? Why not to take a breather and experience the bliss of a free fall?

 

 

The Gift Of Time

298

Looks like topic of death is not going away. Malaysian Airlines tragedy has a heartbreaking and a very sinister side to it. It made me think about the worth of human life and fragility of human body. When people leave our lives permanently, they get stuck in a weird limbo between past and the future. Some people would also call it present, the only problem – with death there is no present.

You memory holds you hostage in the past and your wishful thinking leaves a vacuum feeling in your future. Either way you can’t be.

Malaysian Airlines MH17 tragedy is a horrific example of everything that’s wrong with modern world. Hunger for power and control that sees no boundaries. This crash basically dismisses everything we have fought for all these years, especially acknowledgement of value of the innocent human life. I can’t even tell which emotion has stronger presence in me – anger, grief, fear, utter helplessness, more anger. Blame game that is being played by politicians this moment doesn’t make it any easier to pick any sides. If there is anything in this political hot potato that can be good for the world, is seeing how nobody is innocent in this war. Too late for good cop/bad cop games. Right now our task is to try and avoid Franz Ferdinand moment of 1914.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. – Albert Einstein

298 people perished in the air at the moment of attack. 298 lives and each of them had a change to change the world, make the difference, save life, create life and make somebody very happy. And that isn’t even enough to define the value of what one human life can make. Life that sparked in a blink of an eye, been taken away just as swiftly. Media does a good job showing us raw facts about the fate of MH17 passengers, or more precisely, what is left of them. Speaking profoundly of the deceased yet forgetting that these people had private lives up till the moment when photographs of their corpses were wildly shared on social media. From one angle – it’s a sharing of the information, from another – it’s a severe breach of privacy at the worst timing possible.

Body parts scattered across the sunflower field. That’s all. These are just bodies now, merely an organic material that decomposes just as anything else that has expiration. Just yesterday they were somebody’s father, son, daughter, wife, boyfriend. What do you call them now? Body of somebody who used to be? Yet our fascination with death is insatiable. Knowing we will all pass away sooner or later, we still can’t help but try to come as close to death as possible, especially if it has nothing to do with us. I can only think of one word – curiosity. But this post isn’t about our grounded instincts, it’s about people who didn’t die in a dignified way, in the midst of nasty war without a cause, a war that can’t be won.

No matter who the executioner is or was in this tragedy, calling these people animals would be an insult to an animal. If pure evil exists, this is what it looks like.

Also little is being spoken of the fact that about 100 of the passengers were on their way to the AIDS 2014 conference held in Melbourne, among them some of the leading researchers of the field. Perhaps stating that the cure to AIDS was on that plane, regardless in what form, isn’t exaggeration. Conspiracy or not, this particular loss is not only loss for individual families, it’s a massive loss for humanity. It caries an incredibly dark irony. It also caries awfully bitter understanding that we’ve lost the battle of good and evil.

And it’s not the first time in our history this happened. That land has seen lots of horrid history through the centuries. It caries a dark shadow. Little known fact, but this land is a witness of immense suffering of people who perished under the soviet regime in early 1930s in a man made famine that killed up to 7.5 million Ukrainians. While media is accentuating the idyllic picture perfect view of a sunflower fields, the horror that lurks in there is bone chilling and cannot be comprehended under no circumstances. The people in the photograph above are just miners who worked hard all their lives underground, now are being summoned to perform this morbid task of collecting death that came from the sky. Ironic little sad world it is.

 

298

About Death Part 2

It was one of those nights when due to any possible unforeseen circumstance I am not sleeping. Mostly for two reasons – first and the most important is pesky dry cough that seems to be ruling my life and possibly everyone else’s living in the same flat (and a lesbian couple in the flat next door) and the second is possibly full moon that’s been having a strange effect on me since I was a little girl. In order to  get through the night and not create a sleepless night for my flatmates, I made a decision to move into the kitchen with a massive cup of peppermint tea that appears to be the only cure to my cough.

It’s not the first sleepless night I’ve had this week. Few days ago I learned that a very dear man in my life had passed away under tragic circumstances that prompt me to write a blog entry on death which was a little less that I wanted to say and a little more that people would like to know. Since it’s 3 am,  it’s full moon outside and I think my abdominals are more defined from coughing for the past 3 hours, I am submerging in a rather mystical mood and this is a totally new thing to me.

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

What happens after we die? Nobody really knows. There are numerous legends about what happens to the soul once it leaves the body. You go to heaven or hell. You may reincarnate into another living being. Or may be, as I mentioned in my previous post, you wake up from the dream and continue your existence on a new dimension? All of this thinking is a true brain wreck. Most spiritual teachers would tell you your soul becomes a part of the whole or the divine source and in the quote above my dear William is implying exactly that and this is why I love this quote so much.

Romeo is now shinning the light on his Juliet at night and day, even when she can’t see him. Romeo will be in the raindrops landing on a leaf so when she wants to kiss him, she can gently place her lips upon it to feel his wet lips against hers.  And when she will be rolling on the grass, she will feel his gentle touch against her skin. All of the sudden death is no longer tragic. It creates a new meaning for loss and grief that we experience after losing someone close to us.

The beauty of such thinking isn’t form of denial, quite the opposite, it’s a form of acceptance of the fact that we come and go as naturally as sun raises in the morning and dusks in the evening. Hardly anyone chooses when they must leave this existence, yet tragedy truly lies in suicide. Hardly a favourable choice but still a choice which chills me to the bone and it’s not because it makes me face my own temporality as a human being, but the thought process that happened in the head of the deceased. Not that I am totally unfamiliar with the intention, but  there is certain power in these four simple words –this too shall pass. That no matter how dark is the night, sun will always rise and this too shall pass. And the thing after this.

In the loving memory of Neil.

A beautiful man who lived so briefly yet shone so brightly.

I will never forget you.

 

 

About Death Part 2

About Death Part 1

“Death’s got an Invisibility Cloak?” Harry interrupted again.
“So he can sneak up on people,” said Ron. “Sometimes he gets bored of running at them, flapping his arms and shrieking…”
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

People are terrified of death because facing death makes us face our own temporality on this planet. Death of a close person shatters our idea of life as a continuous horizontal line delicately flowing wrapping around things like presents from the moment we were born till the moment we die. And when this shift in perspective happens, we stop seeing world as horizontal time line – life gains depth, becomes richer in experience and we realize we can feel something we’ve never felt before – aliveness within ourselves along with empty spaces that you think you will never be able to fill. May be they aren’t meant to be filled.

Nobody really dares to think  about dying. Subject of death must be avoided at all costs because we don’t want to think about losing our parents, grandparents, friends, people we care about but as life goes on these things happen and we act surprised although we’ve always known this will happen to all of us, as Benjamin Franklin said  there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes.

However with taxes you can cheat the system, with death. Enough said.

Perhaps fact of death itself isn’t a great surprise, may be the surprise is that life continuous after death of our loved ones. We still have to go to work, spring always turns up, babies are born. You are surprised you can still live after they die although you never imagined you could. And even when we die, even then life will continue, even without us and you can’t be sure you are still here tomorrow.

Whether it’s accidental or contemplated action, death it’s real, except we choose to believe it happens to everyone but us. Wise people are talking about how we should live each day to the full because tomorrow might never come, others say there is no tomorrow, that tomorrow is just now and everything you make of right now. Either way, one thing is certain, we always must do what makes us happy. Every day, every minute, every second. Think about how this thing you are doing right now make you feel, if it sucks then do things that you love and do them well right now is all that matters. Searching for meaning in life is pointless because no matter what you find, it will never satisfy you.

We really begin to live the moment we stop fearing death. We fear death not because we don’t know what happens after you die, but because we are curious what may happen if we live. Of course, we are instinctive creature and we live on self preservation, but at the same time we walk on the edge of razor blade almost every day of our lives never really knowing when we are going to slip.

We fear death not because we don’t know what happens after you die, but because we are curious what may happen if we live.

I must say, I love life but I am also not afraid to die either. And to think about it, life is just series of attachments to things, names, stories, people, places etc. So really, we aren’t afraid of death, we are afraid of losing all those things because we don’t really know what we’ll be without them. And do we know for a fact we aren’t all dreaming. May be death is just something that wakes us up from this dream called life?

 

About Death Part 1

Messages from Maya Angelou

I admit – today was the first day I heard about this woman. I may have heard people quoting her yet never paying attention who stood behind the name. I am ashamed I never looked for her. I’m ashamed I only found out about her.

And yet another bright light has passed. I was always wondering what is this magical place where talent goes after we pass away. Does it disappear into the void? Does it go to another person or does it return to the pool of collective consciousness where it is freely available for anyone who is willing to welcome it?

She was a master of words. Her ability to communicate thoughts through language was like channeling a divine source. She was a messenger that gave us true clarity and comprehension of us as individuals and as a whole.

This quote pretty much sums up everything that I ever felt about writing without knowing it.

When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language. 

RIP Maya Angelou

 

 

Messages from Maya Angelou