The Face of Death

Gaining an in-depth understanding about life and death here, translated…

I took the New Year’s vacation, went to visit India, to visit that famous town of Varanasi next to the Ganges.

This town which was called “more ancient than the legends” by Mark Twain, an Indian sacred city, still had its down-to-earth looks. There was a rundown altar inside the bumpy and narrowed streets, with the multitude of paintings of Ganesha, linking life to religion here.

On the small pathway, the long tones of the horns sounding from the motorcycles, with the livestock, along with the stray dogs, fighting for the right of way; the colorful flowers for offering, the scent of incense burning, was a strong contrast to the scent of the mud on the road and the cow dung. After a few days, I can probably, map up this city, based off of the unique scent I whiffed in the various districts.

But, the most famous in Varanasi was still that step-by-step crematorium, impacted the foreign tourists’ fears of death. I’d come to India, just for this, I’d wanted to switch up the celebration of the New Year’s with “celebrating the rebirth with death”.

And still, as I stood there, by the burning fields, being impacted by how close death was to me, I’d found, that this sort of ordinariness, was still something I have difficulties, accepting in reality. For several days, I’d stood on the watch balcony of Manikarnika Ghat.

As the blazing fires swallowed the corpses, sometimes, a charcoaled arm would, slid out from the wrappings, like a dried up log, continued burning. And the constantly rising up hot air, mixed in with the enormous ashes, with the scent of burn, and the balms applied to the bodies, came towards me. Although it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be, but being so close to death, to the point, that it can, land on my skin, breathing in the air, it was still, quite difficult, for me, to adjust myself to that impact.

And, I’d recalled the very FIRST funeral I’d ever attended—my mother’s. Since I was growing up, don’t know why, but my mother also warned me to stay away from funerals. As my grandmother died, my mother took the whole family back to Nantou for the funeral, but left me with the neighbors. During those couple of nights, I kept imagining what death looked like, thinking of how I will meet it one day too, how it would, gnash its teeth at me. After my mother died, as her coffin was burned down in the incinerator, what went through my mind was not losing her, and feeling sad over it, but I’d tried, capturing what death looked like in the midst of the fire, how scary is He? So much so, that my mother had, tried to protect me from it when she was alive.

Naturally, there was, NOTHING in the fire, even my mother’s face, and, that heat from the blazes, had all, been isolated, on the other end of the protective glass. Death, I still have, yet, to bear witness to.

The days I’d stayed in Varanasi, watching death, breathing it in, it’d slowly, become, ordinary to me. On the fifth evening, my mother came to my dreams, and that, was the very first time I’d dreamed about her, since she’d been gone, so many years now.

In my dreams, my mother was sitting by the folding breakfast table, silently eating. I’d watched her wrinkles curiously, her white hair, her slow chewing lips, then, my mother turned her face to me, looked at me and said, “If you have problems in math that are troubling you, do remember, to ask your older brother to teach you how to do it.”

I was laughing so loudly in my dream, because that, was what my mother would nag me on whenever I’d visited home, as I studied in the English majors back in my university career. After I woke up, I lay in bed, feeling that life and death IS like a dream. The looks of death, maybe, it’s, as light as a caring greeting and advice from my mother.

So, you’d been waiting for this dream a long time, since your mother died, and, between the time when she’d passed, to where you are currently, a lot had happened I’m sure, and, you’d, become older AND wiser, and gained more and more knowledge and understanding about life and death.


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