Death: a narrative, not a statistic.
I have taken my own time to bask in grief without thinking of certain deaths as statistics born out of a medical emergency. Dealing with a non-specific but massive blurry cloud of grief from a point of loneliness and relative safety has changed the way I understand mortality. One of my biggest takeaways is that death is not as much about a person leaving, as much as it is about the people they leave behind.
When someone leaves, an entire dictionary of their most used phrases and mannerisms evaporates from the face of the earth. I don't know what follows death but I am aware of the logistics that the bereaved have to take care of. Apart from issuing death certificates and writing obituaries, I believe there is so much that goes undocumented -- like throwing away of a toothbrush, punching a factory reset on their phone, claiming their side of the bed, kicking their footwear under the shoe rack and a million other seemingly obscure obligatory chores that are perhaps more laborious than they appear.
Many a morning, I woke up to the news of the death of people I knew personally, and my first instinct would be to reach out to the people they were closest to whilst trying to sound as sincere as possible. I don't believe I ever sounded sincere in those messages that were longer than what the unsaid rules of texting allow. Death is sincere and if you place anything next to it, be it the deepest of your concern and love, it would appear shallow in face of the enormity of death.
Across the nation, people are struck with the kind of grief that does not just emotionally paralyse you but has another more dehumanising effect. The most gruesome aspect of this dystopia is that grieving has evolved as a luxury. The situation has left everyone scrambling to save the ones at risk before they can deal with the morbid loss at hand.
The influx of such terminality has caused a change in my behaviour as well. I don't make jokes about death or casually mention that I’d prefer dying when I feel ever so slightly overwhelmed by an incomplete assignment or a dysfunctional washing machine. We, as a society, have tapped into the finality of death for various purposes - edgy humour, a maternal blackmail, cinematic climax of a love story, the most extreme capital punishment. We can speak about it at length but when death appears in all its tangibility, perspectives change. This newfound experience of grief has evaporated the line between personal and political. As I sit back and process the grief everyone is experiencing around me, I believe all I can do is be grateful for the safety of those that are still with us. I have also taken up a responsibility to replenish the amount of hope that was lost in this catastrophe to establish the worldly balance of faith again. That's the thing about grief when it is not your own. It makes you believe in myths like the afterlife or that the government will do its job.