Saturday, May 05, 2007


Reuters reports today that, in India, hordes of folk are visiting a village to see for themselves an old man who, for six years, has been lying in his own grave waiting to die. The poor man, who says he is a centenarian, is mourning for his wife, officials said.

The old man clears weeds from his grave and spend lots of time lying in it. Being a member of a religious caste who bury their dead rather than the normal funeral pyre, the man dug his own grave close to his wife's and waits patiently for death to claim him. So far it has ignored his plight.

This is a touching story, a love story, a story which suggests that humans, on occasion, are capable of great idealism, selflessness and sacrifice! If we could graft some of the mourner's genes onto every human our world perhaps devotion and loyalty might become more commonplace.



betmo said...

and we'd all live to be 100. i wouldn't trade places with him- i cannot imagine his grief and that feeling of circling the drain- waiting and waiting to go down. i hear what you're saying about love and devotion- but that wasn't what first leapt to my mind.

Worried said...

It MIGHT, Daniel.

My personal example of love and devotion came from my maternal grandmother and grandfather. My grandfather spoiled my grandmother rotten, as the saying goes, but in their old age when he became bedfast, she waited on him hand and foot, fiercely denying us younger ones to relieve her of her burden. SHE would take care of her Charlie.On the day before he died he called her to his bedside, embraced her with his withered old arms and said, "I sure do love you, Girl. I sure do love you". To him, she was still the brown eyed beauty he had married.

After his death, the mortuary held his body for a week, awaiting the arrival of the far flung family. Grandma visited his body every day, talking to it as if he was still there, telling him all about the family and events. She knew that he wasn't there, but after over 60 years of viewing that body as him,the man, habit was hard to break.

On the day of his funeral, she was taken for one last visit in the privacy of the mortuary, and at last her iron will broke. She began to keen, in that old fashioned way of grieving that is not heard any more, a way that sends shivers up the spine and tears your heart out by the roots.

In my lifetime I have attended many funerals and during my lifetime career as a nurse I have heard the grief stricken cries of many people upon the death of a loved one. But never have I heard such anguish and despair as when my Grandmother cried out, "Ooooh! Charlie. My Darling. My Lover."

After over 60 years of marriage, he was still "my Darling, my Lover"? What I would give for a love like that.

Grandmother held strong thereafter, for the sake of the "children" but then she gave up and willed herself to die. My family was the last to leave and my mother ran after us, crying the alarm. I went back to Grandmother's bedside and no matter what I said or did her vital signs continued to fail. She was dying before my eyes.In the weakest voice, she gasped, "I just want to go be with Charlie". In the way of her American Indian ancestors, she was willing herself to die. Many modern people do not believe it is possible, but it most certainly is.

Finally, in desperation, I began to tell her how much she was needed by her children, grand children, great grandchildren and extended family. At first she failed to respond but eventually her maternal instincts were aroused - the mother love to protect and care for the children - and gradually she began to rally. Slowly her vital signs improved until they were almost normal again.

She lived another 5 years before her old heart gave up, the rock of Gibralter of our Family, our Matriarch, a sheltering tree for all the many branches of Family.

Never have I known of such love and devotion as that of my Grandmother. Never will there be another to fill her shoes.

Daniel said...

Betmo, it's interesting to hear your reaction especially in light of the comment by Worried.

You wrote a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person, Worried. It was very moving! Thanks.

Mary Walsh said...

Yes, I would agree with Betmo...I worry that we bring back the dying for our own selfish reasons rather than seeing life through the eyes of the bereft person. I cannot imagine living on without my life partner in spite of children and is not the same kind of love and sharing that occurs between two people who have shared a life time of joys and sorrows....I would have let that grandmother die with my blessings...Her love for Charlie was calling her to another place that we couldn't begin to understand based on her faith system...She had more to move forward to, than to stay and linger here, according to what she wanted for herself...I really do believe that people choose their time to die and they should be allowed to so...Their choice, not ours...if we love them...we'll let them go!!!!

and with peace and serenity - none of this, if you love us, you'll stay!....That just adds to their grieving period for their departed loved one waiting for them on the other side...Making them choose!!.

I personally don't believe in an afterlife for myself but I do appreciate that others feel differently...

"Worried" got their wish, but at what cost to the loving grandmother who deserved what she so desperately be with Charlie.....

Our values are not necessarily those shared by the other person.

Mary Walsh

DP said...

Thats very sad Daniel. Love suicides are not uncommon in India. A lot of stupid young people get influenced by stupid Bollywood movies. I have personally come across atleast one such case.

Anyway, I tried looking for the report and couldn't find it. Could you post the link.

Daniel said...

Great to hear from you, D.P. Sorry, I don't have that link.

Mary, your point is taken. It's an interesting situation balancing our responsibility to ourselves with our responsibility to those we love. It's a catch 22 scene quite often!

Anonymous said...

Never have I known of such love and devotion as that of my Grandmother. Never will there be another to fill her shoes.

This will veer somewhat off-topic, but...

I have very similar feelings toward my own--my only--grandmother, but for a very different reason. You see mine outlived my grandfather by over 15 years. As the youngest daughter in her family, by decades, she outlived her siblings. She outlived her friends. In short, she outlived an entire generation, and yet she was entirely devoted to the very small and dwindling family that we've become. When she finally passed away, it was as if a light had gone out.

As worried said, there will never be another like her.