why me, and anchors of faith

On some days, my mother is acutely aware of her confusion and memory loss. she knows how clumsily she is fumbling with words, she is aware that what she is trying to say could not be clear to me.  She says, “I cannot even speak properly,” and I say, “It’s because of your disease,”, and she asks, “Do all people get this?”

“Not all,” I say.

And then she asks, “Why me?”

I have no answer. I change the topic, but these are days when the question keeps buzzing in her mind, and every few minutes, with the persistence and puzzlement of one dealt a bad hand by fate, she returns to the question, “Why me?”

I am not religious in the usual sense. I do not peg on to a super entity the praise, blame, or responsibility of whatever good or bad happens to me. I do tend to sometimes lean on the concept of a super-being/ fount of energy for grace and energy, and I hope that by remaining focused and desirous of something, this unlimited source will cast something positive and constructive my way that will be genuinely good for me. But I remain responsible for my actions. Karma, the concept propounded in Hindu (and in a different way in Buddhist) texts,  may or may not exist, but I do not use it to explain my reality, my past, or my future.  Fate is not, for me, the will of a capricious or well-meaning or vengeful god. Nor is there a massive database up there with detailed entries of all that has been done and therefore will happen.

I am, therefore, ill equipped to understand what happens and why, and why some things happen to some people and not another. Probability curves and randomness don’t satisfy me, either. I seek models to reconcile me with life, and till I find some that intuitively fit my needs, I assume that each moment is sufficient unto itself, and understanding fate is not needed to live a wholesome life. I also feel, deep within me, that if I am connected within myself, and aligned, I will be at peace with whatever happens, and questions such as god will be more academic than one of desperation.

My mother was not religious in the usual sense. She never prayed. She did not keep any idols in the house, or observe day-long fasts to please the gods/ show her loyalty/ demand things. She was, however, a member of the Theosophical Society (TS), and their lesser known and secret part, the Esoteric Society (ES). Every week or two, she would go for their meetings, and I would accompany her. As she attended the ES meeting (behind closed doors), I sat in the TS library and read books that I had taken along. Sometimes, we would stay on for the TS meeting later, which I could join, and this usually started with a prayer that I still remember as one of the most beautiful poems I have ever heard. The elderly gentleman who led it, spoke in a voice that resounded, and everyone would chant it after him.

I believe it is by Dr. Annie Besant, and if I remember right, it went like this:

O Hidden Life, Vibrant in Every Atom

O Hidden Light, Shining in Every Creature

O Hidden Love, Embracing All in Oneness

May all who feel themselves as one with Thee

Know they are therefore one with every other.

Some days back, in an effort to make my mother peaceful, I chanted these lines to my mother, and even though she could not remember having heard them before, she closed her eyes and smiled.

The resultant peace lasted barely five minutes, though 🙂 before she asked her “Why me?’ again.

I realized my mother strongly felt the need to believe, though she does not know what to believe in. So I asked her some days ago, “Do you believe in God?”, and was shocked when she said, “Yes.” I then asked her whether she then wanted the pictures of some gods around the room, and she shook her head vigorously (much like the mother I remembered), but then she said, “But a picture of Lord Buddha, perhaps?”

So I got a picture of Lord Buddha for her. I saw how often she gazed at it, and then remembered that there had been a guru she once admired, Devraha Baba. We used to visit him when he was residing near Patna, crossing the river Ganges to reach him. She had once written an article on him, and he had given her a name (Premamurti, statue of love) and a mantra scribbled on a broken piece of an earthen pot. I hunted and hunted in the house for that scribbled mantra, but could not find it.  I reminded my mother of the words, but she looked blank. Still I got her a picture of Devraha Baba, just to see if it helped her.

Now, I often find her gazing at these two pictures. That adoring manner always unnerves me, because this is so unlike what she used to be, at least apparently. But I guess she needs anchors of some sort, and these are personalities she respected enough for her to lean on, and not feel conflict with her ‘non-religious’ stance.

It makes me wonder who will give me solace when/ if I am in a situation like hers. J Krishnamurthy, perhaps, or Ramanna Maharishi, except  that neither of these positioned themselves as gurus (even if their followers persist in doing so).  Then, of course, there are more contemporary people I admire, and who epitomize peace for me–Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle.  I suspect they would be even more revolted at the idea of someone gazing at their photos, hungry for solace 🙂 Also, I cannot imagine myself in such a state of adoration, and I hope I reach a permanent space of peace inside me well in time. I guess that means I must work on it more consistently.

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India. I have also been a dementia caregiver for well over a decade, and am deeply concerned about dementia care in India; on this blog I share my personal caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care. For structured information on dementia, for discussions, tools and tips on caregiving issues, for resources in India, and for caregiver interviews, please check my website http://dementiacarenotes.in (or its Hindi version, http://dementiahindi.com). For videos on dementia caregiving (English and Hindi), check the youtube channel here.

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