Category: Death

Miss me, but let me go!


At a funeral yesterday, one of the family read out this poem at the crematorium – which I thought was very helpful.

When I come to the end of the road
and the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
– why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little, but not too long,
and not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared
– miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,
and each must go alone.
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
a step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart
go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me – but let me go.

Why was is to so helpful?     

We know that grieving is a process…. according to Kubhler-Ross

And many things have to die in our lives (not just people)

Maybe it helps us keep moving on that journey


No Ambulance, No Doctor but a photographer on hand…….. “He was taken aside and given a key to hold as we felt he had an attack of fits. There was no ambulance around but we gave him some basic first aid.’’ Mahesh (Physio) From Deccan Herald

The news this morning from Bangalore was a sharp contrast from the weekend’s news in England. A young footballer yesterday died on the pitch of a cardiac arrest (click here). In England everybody has been relieved to see Fabrice Muamba begin his recovery, with the incongruous sight of Premiership footballers calling people to prayer. Here in India the family of Venkatesh Dhanraj are mourning and stunned that he died so suddenly and with no medical facilities to resuscitate him. His father said “After he collapsed on the ground, I knew something was wrong. The referee noticed it and called for medical attention. But, I saw no one. Forget an ambulance, it’s a luxury for football players in Bangalore, there was no stretcher and no doctor.” The league has been suspended with the Karnataka State Football Association accusing Bangalore District of breaking rules on medical provision. Shockingly it is the second death at the stadium in 8 years, after the Brazilian striker Cristiano Junior. Perspective is so often lost with sport…. but these tragedies out it right back into perspective. I was reading Alex Ferguson praising the rapid reaction of the medical staff at the Tottenham / Bolton game where Muamba collapsed. Money is clearly the difference.

the call to prayer……

Unfortunately not all medically trained understand their work as vocation but more as a career. Fr Eric the Jesuit director here in Manvi trapped a nerve in his leg two days ago. In great pain he rushed to the nearest hospital in Raichur (80kms away) and the doctor after a cursory inspection suggested an operation which would cost 50,000Rupees ($700). This seemed ridiculous so Eric went to Mangalore (200kms away) to the Catholic Hospital where his sister works – he had an MRI scan for 2000 rupees and was discharged after the nerve had slipped back in to place. As long as unscrupulous doctors are just working to get as much money as quickly as possible then the idea of public service takes a backseat. This is why an education system that inculcates the values of service, especially for the least is so important and the only way to transform a country. Two of the Dalit children here told me that their dream is to become doctors…. I hope they make it and remember the love and care they have experienced here at the Xavier High School in Manvi.

The place of Death


One of the differences I have observed about the different remote villages I’m visiting in Upper Kisga is the place the dead are given.  It is almost an indication of how ‘Christianised’ the villages have come.  There is documentary and oral evidence that successive missionaries encouraged people to build a cemetery outside of the villages, but they never insisted on it.  The dead and the spirits of ancestors play a significant role in these mountain tribes.  The nearby Bontoc region  – where some of my companions are – is famous for the hanging coffins in some of the caves.  In fact, according to Lonely Planet, different from the 9 other different cultures that practice dmummification – here in the Cordillera they are unique in that do not touch any internal organs. Corpses are dried in the heat of a fire, embalmed herbally and then over six months smoke is blown into abdominal cavities to dry out worms and preserve organs. Here in Tunadan – at least in the remoter villages – the dead are still buried next to the houses of the family.

This means, as you can see in the picture, that graves are interspersed amongst the dwellings – sometimes even underneath homes. In some houses when the family gather to eat, they will call on the name of the dead relative to join them – as they believe that the spirit is still roaming about their former habitat.  Again whether this is practiced or not would indicate the level of ‘christianisation’ that has happened.  The old lady who was explaining this to me assured me that in her eyes it was superstition. She then gave a very impressive exposition of how important belief in the Resurrection is now for her family. I hope she wasn’t just saying it to impress the priest!  The other fascinating detail she told me was about  the tradition of mourning.  It used to be that a widow would not cut his hair for a year and then could cut it only if he went to an enemy tribe or village and came back with a head. The old lady, laughing, assured me that this expectation was commuted long before she was born, to hunting a wild boar or deer for a day and a night, and coming back with its corpse to be shared in a feast.

It has always fascinated me the different ways we cope with death – in the UK very poorly I believe!  It is a peculiarly British habit to quarantine death with pragmatism, etiquette and control.  That is definitely not the case here. I was very fond of the HBO series Six Feet Under for this reason and  I have put on my Amazon Wish List (hint hint!) a fascinating book called Making An Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre. How We Dignify the Dead by Sarah Murray How we deal with death often is more about how the living cope with loss and the values that underpin that.  Here the people have such a strong collective identity – which seems to be both positive and negative.