The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible says that it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Over the years I’ve lost considerable amount of close family members, but I never had this kind of revelation until recently. It was indeed good for my soul to mourn over a loss, because I learned so many things within just twenty-four hours I had during the wake of my late Namboru (the younger sister of my father) in Medan yesterday. The insights I got are not new things under the sun; they’re just something that I must bear in mind while taking up my time living in this world. I personally hope these insights will help my friends. Somehow.
1. Money is the root of all evil.
More money leads to more self-righteousness. You think more money makes you better than everyone else, makes you deserve special treatment, and makes you a distinguished member of the society. What it does is making you acting rude and/or being evil to other people whom you presume have less than you do. There is always someone who has more money than you and the comparison/competition will never end. There’s no point of boasting about how much you earn because you can’t bring anything anyway to the after life. Money does get you a better tombstone when you die, but it doesn’t buy the heartfelt condolences people will feel at losing you. You don’t have the right to boss people around just because you assume you have more money than them. You don’t have the right to boss people around unless they are clearly working for you.
2. Acceptance is the key to relief.
How many times do we say in our lives that that person should be doing this or that, that person should be saying this or that, and that nobody understands what we’re going through? We push our mind frames onto others and get disappointed when they don’t act the way we think they must. The solution to this problem is only one: acceptance. Accept that you are different than other people, that you have different stances and opinions, and that it’s okay to be different. When we accept we manage our expectations, and by managing our expectations we manage our emotions. Acceptance brings so much relief that at the end of the day you might wonder how come you are so bothered by these or those issues. Bear this in mind; you can’t change anyone but yourself. Your perspective, your response, your emotions are your responsibility. People can say/do whatever they want to you, but you have the full control over what to do about those gestures.
3. Be kind. No matter what.
Be kind to everybody; everyone has their own struggle. Be kind and don’t expect your kindness to be returned by the same person, in the near future, within the same context, and with the same scale you apply to yourself. That’s what my late Oppung Inang (my maternal grandmother) often told me, and it was amplified by my late Namboru. She told me that if I ever expect something in return when I do something nice, then it’s not kindness. It is transaction. Be kind not to get a pat on your back. Be kind not to get compliment. Kindness is not a gratification tool. Be kind and do it for your own sake.
4. Gossip benefits no one.
If you are tempted to talk about someone behind their backs, or if your tongue is tempted to say anything about anyone (regardless it’s good or bad), go eat. Gossips have no end and no beginning and they go spiraling out of control very fast. If you’re displeased, talk to the person causing it. If the circumstances don’t allow you to do so, talk to people who are trustworthy if you still have the need to ease your mind. Wrong judgment of choosing confidantes who can keep secrets can cause a misery for a long time. Don’t sweat over small stuffs. If, for example, you’re irritated because someone is using you as his emotional punching bag and there’s no way you can tell him directly that you mind, let it go. Their issues are not your problems. Their inadequate and inappropriate ways to behave and to carry themselves are their own responsibilities, not yours. Don’t be so touché; the world doesn’t revolve around you and how you should be treated.
5. Don’t quarrel.
When arguing over an issue, we decide on the topic to argue about, we decide on the standpoints we and our opponent take, and we agree whether to agree or to disagree at the end of the argument. That’s a different case with a quarrel. When we quarrel we block other people’s voices and tend to listen only to our own. We argue just for the sake of the argument itself. How many disputes, heartaches, and even wars have happened on this earth just because one party is insisting that he’s right and the others are wrong? If only adults can restrain themselves from behaving like children. I’ve often seen how a quarrel goes when my children have “Yes, he did it/No, I did not” argument just to insist on who broke the Lego set (when they both actually did that even though not in the same time). By quarreling they try to find justification for their actions and they aim for recognition that they are not at fault at all (which is impossible). That’s a very childish act but is surprisingly being done by plenty of adults on a daily basis.
6. Don’t snap.
Hold your tongue, not everyone is used to the way you’re talking. We often forget that within a voice, there is a tone which is as important as the voice itself. Within a news/communication, there is a way to convey the message, and the way taken is as important as the news/communication itself. Even when you’re irritated, cranky, upset, and whatever, don’t leash your negative emotions on people you know or on some strangers. You don’t have the right to be mean, and they are not obliged to listen to your problems.
Right now I’m holding dearly to those insights because they had been proven to be applicable during the wake. Regarding acceptance, I’ve learned that people have their own ways to mourn. Mine was to cry my heart out silently while laying my head near the feet of my late Namboru. I stayed in that position for hours, for as long as I could when not so many guests were around to pay their respect. Within a few hours I was there I had seen people wailing over the death of my Namboru for a second, and in the next second asking their companions to record their mourning process and go live video on Facebook. I personally loathed that practice. Those people made our mourning seem cheap and meaningless, but acceptance made me hold my tongue. If it was their way to prove to the world that they’re the ones who felt the ultimate loss, then who was I to judge and criticize? Nevertheless I did snap once when one distant relative shook the bed on which my late Namboru was lying, just to prove that she suffered a lot (she made sure the phone camera was on while she was doing it, by the way). I was not sorry for losing my temper at that time because what she did was just outrageous.
Regarding gossips, I’ve learned that the most respect paid to the deceased and his/her family is by not evoking thoughts on what things should have been/should have not been done. My late Namboru had cancer and it had spread over many parts of her body over the course of twelve years. While mourning for my loss, I overheard the conversations among the distant relatives and guests about the correct medication she should have been taking. One person, saying that she’s a doctor, even linked my Namboru’s illness with the one Fidelis Ari’s wife had, although all news I have read so far have indicated different names for their illnesses. The “discussion” went out of hand with doubting every effort my family had taken to work on her cure, and it disgusted me. For the sake of my late Namboru, who would have liked me to hold back my temper if something like this had happened, I didn’t snap. I only gave that person a cold stare and said in my heart, how can a supposedly smart person be very stupid and misleading?
I can believe that my late Namboru is now gone, and she has gone to the best place for her. When I arrived at her home, it’s as if I saw my heart was taken out of my body and crushed to pieces, transcendentally. But before I left for the airport to go home, I cleaned the remaining nail polish she had on her cold toes and it dawned on me. What was once felt as a loss had changed into a gain. I couldn’t have thought about those insights if I hadn’t taken the time to mourn over her death. My heart was quickly restored and now it was filled with wisdom, understanding, and legacy that only she could have given to me.
Vielen Dank, Bou, you will always be missed.