The joy of death. Mrinal Thandaoori. Photo by Pablo Heimplatz UnSplash

The joy of death

In Insight and Experience by Mrinal ThandaooriLeave a Comment

How processing my mother’s death brought me into closer connection with eternal bliss.


Death, just like life, can creep up slowly or sock you right in the face. And so it was with me last Saturday. Just before six in the morning, I got a call. While the number was not familiar, it was recognisable as an Indian number. My stomach lurched. A call at this time could only mean bad news. And it was. My cousin was calling to say my mother – my rock – was no more.

The tears came of course, and with them a sense of overwhelming guilt, that I had ignored my father’s warning.

You see, my mother had been in hospital for two weeks. When I asked if I should fly over, my sister, aunt, brother, all assured me there was no emergency and that she was improving. In fact, she had improved so much that she was going to be discharged from hospital. Once home, however, she had difficulty moving independently and looking after herself. Having seen my father bedridden for years before passing, the thought of my mother going through the same was unbearable. There was this niggling thought at the back of my mind. What if Mum did not improve but became invalid? How would she cope?

Cooking delicious Indian food

That’s when my father came to me. I was in the kitchen cooking. I turned my head and there he was, standing right next to me; ephemeral in form but his voice so clear in my head. “I will be taking her back with me now.” I went into shocked denial. I completely ignored him and just went about my business. I should have acknowledged his message and taken the next flight back. I might have seen her alive one last time. Put my head on her shoulder. One last time.

Duty first

There was no point hurrying down now. The cremation was to be immediate so her soul could start its journey without delay. With a 20 hour flight, there was no way for me to get there in time. My sister forbade me to fly over. She said our mother’s credo was always ‘duty first’, and my duty right now was to be with my son to give him stability at home during the ongoing VCE exams. It’s what my mother would have done and wanted. That much was true. So, the rest of the family would have closure. They would participate in the last rites and the ritual pujas. I would not. They had each other for support. I did not.

Seeking understanding

With the healing work I do, I have a firm belief in the afterlife and the foreverness of the soul. I knew the loss of the physical body did not mean the loss of my mother, that she would live on someplace else. Though never religious, I found myself Googling ‘last Hindu rites’. I found out that we leave a flame burning at the place of passing to serve as a focal point for the soul and prevent it from drifting and losing its way. I found that we offer a small meal to the departed every day for 10 days to nourish the ethereal body on its journey to the eternal dwelling place.

In my Hindu culture, this place is called Vaikuntha and the scriptures say it exists somewhere near the constellation of Capricorn. True or not true? Who knows? It was a peaceful notion, but not enough consolation at this moment.

Reaching out

Needing to know Mum was not stuck and had safely passed over, I reached out to my soul sister Freya, who offers assisted passing and has previously written about it for this magazine.

And beautiful Freya did just that. She checked on Mum and even brought back a message. Mum said she was in bliss. She said she came back to the entrance hall to bliss at the edge of the world to be with me in my prayers. She said she was at peace and that she was everywhere now.

With that message, my heart felt calmer. Finding a thread of strength, I started to pull myself together and determined to remember a happy memory each time the tears came: Mum’s favourite blossoms, the purple jacaranda; ABBA’s song, Eagle; how she ran her fingers over her now fragile wedding sari tucked away in her cupboard, how she insisted on serving up hot, fluffy rotis at dinner time; how she roused the neighbourhood each time she saw the elusive and ‘lucky’ crow pheasant in the backyard and she wanted to share the ‘luck’ with everyone.

I remembered how she giggled like a child during our last phone conversation when she told me that for the first time in her 86 years she had allowed her long hair to be cut short in a bob, for convenience. I thought of how she had opened her heart to so many and was loved and respected by so many in turn. Gracious and dignified, she had been the family matriarch in recent years.

Letting go

Once my scattered qi was gathered up, my mother was finally able to reach out and communicate directly. She came along with Dad, across time and space, to say goodbye. He had his arm around her shoulders. She had a happy smile on her face as she looked up to him with love. This time Dad said nothing and let Mum do the talking. She held my face in her hands and said, “You need to let me go. Let us go. You are able to take care of yourself. Do your duty and look after your family. You are strong. Stronger than you realise.” Nodding my head, I did what she asked. I let her go. Let them both go.

Tomorrow, it will be 10 days since her passing and the end of the mourning period. And I feel ready to stop mourning and start feeling joy in their passing, joy that Mum and Dad have both gone home. I chant from an ancient Sanskrit scripture:

Om. Asatoomaa sadgamaya. Tamasoomaa jyotirgamaya. Mrutyoormaa amritam gamaya. Shanti. Shanti. Shantihi.

We journey towards the eternal truth, from darkness towards the eternal light, from death to the sweet nectar of immortal consciousness. And so, there is peace within me and peace around me, peace in all the universe.


[author title=”About the author”]

[share title="Share this post" facebook="true" twitter="true" google_plus="true" linkedin="true" email="true"]

Leave a Comment