The Mystery of Goodbyes

Insights

Suha shares with us two events in her recent life where she had to let go. Much gratefulness ensued.

Fire by Suha

How can it be possible to experience death while alive? Or actually two deaths?

For instance, it’s one thing when I decide I want to move house. It’s quite another when my balance is brutally disrupted by an external blow.

I felt I was dying, sinking into nothingness, when, on February of last year, during my winter stay in India, my home in Paris was completely destroyed by arson. A mentally ill, drunken female tenant, after a quarrel with a fireman who was her neighbour on the second floor, systematically set fire to the doormats of the building, beginning with my flat on the eighth, the first to be devastated by the flames. In the fire that followed, ten people were killed; four of them were friends of mine.

All my possessions, which for 32 years had been witnesses of my “journey” in that tiny, inconvenient, inexpensive, but much beloved nest, were completely wiped out.

These are the plain facts. And I’m lucky to be able to talk about them: my life was spared. But it took some time before I felt able to write about it.

When it happened, I felt impotent and extremely fragile, because of the unwarranted violence I had undergone; I saw myself naked, transparent and needy, suspended in the hands of existence. A halt. A shattering. Back to zero. Incapable of anger, protests or complaints. Life in the meantime was pushing me forward, and the necessary practical and bureaucratic matters required my presence.

I did not weep for my friends or for my lost objects. But my feeling of inward bewilderment made me lose my bearings outside my house too, and day-to-day gestures seemed unusually momentous.

But, right after the tragedy, I was overcome by emotion – seeing everything that was set in motion to come to my aid.

Only an intelligent, loving universe – whose lovingness, however, is expressed through specific individuals – could have set up such an orchestration.

While I was still in India, my niece Valeria, who lives in Paris, did her very utmost, during breaks in her job, to deal with all the pressing legal and administrative matters. In addition, with the help of social workers (in spite of my initial reluctance and anxiety), she managed to obtain for me the allocation of a lovely flat owned by the Municipality of Paris, in a Residence for Retired Artists. It was empty, fully renovated, on the seventh floor (and the place where you wait for the lift had seats!), roomy, with all conveniences, and full of light, sky and silence.

Everything that was lacking after I had bought the first essential items, was showered joyfully on me by my friends, in suitcases full of household linen and indispensable objects. The need to restart a home from scratch at the age of eighty fired me with a creativity that amazed me.

The closeness with my niece, who put me up right after my return, while I was waiting to move into my own place, gave me new eyes to understand her better, and to appreciate her generous heart:

I learned – as a guest – to be present and at the same time “invisible”. Valeria thanked me for this. “Aunt, you have always been ‘in your place’ and we have never quarrelled; and what delicious dishes you prepared for me in the evening!”

Moreover, my new lodging in the “Artists’ Residence” gave me a chance to catch a glimpse of the progress of an old age within a protected environment where people can move around as they wish: really our “last resort”.

I had never, not even when elderly, felt the need for more comfort, and I would never have imagined living in an environment entirely populated with aged people. But it’s true, isn’t it, that what I am able to share is simply myself and my joy in experiencing my old age?

My grief is still there, because the violence I have undergone has left traces and scars, and sometimes I fear they may have consequences on my body. I had to learn to pay attention to this process, to respect it, ease it, accept it and even celebrate it, in the most difficult moments, when my vital resources seemed to desert me. But the universe promptly responded by sending me new energy.

My grief is there, but there is also gratitude, and they are holding hands.

I am grateful for not having had to go through the horrors of that hellish night: surviving friends have told me about it. I don’t know through what mystery I have been spared.

And afterwards, having witnessed the split between my life before and after the fire, once more I questioned the complexity of my life. Was it still necessary for me to go on alternating between two continents, for instance, or to go on accumulating objects?

The sudden grief for the first loss brought with it a second heartbreak, which this time I consciously chose and experienced: that of closing my house in Pune, where I have lived six months a year for 32 years. A luxury I can no longer afford, because the new flat is much more expensive than the old one, and my income is not enough for me to pay two rents.

To go every day through a goodbye to my Indian past (half of my life as an adult) is a challenge and a feat. Without the presence of my sister Jivanmukta, who came to help me, I could not have pulled through.

The fire unwittingly showed me the way by making a clean sweep of my old life in France. Now it’s up to me to erase my past in India. Now the inward fire that lives inside me and drives me is what helps me select, eliminate, sell, donate objects (including my complete collection of Osho’s books in English!)

Tertha and Suha December 2011
Tertha and Suha December, 2011
And it also helps me re-live the years of work and meditation spent at the Resort and the grief for the loss – seven years ago – of my beloved partner Teertha, who was born in India and lived here.

A good, thorough clearing out, and a letting-go that makes my heart alternately light and heavy! And even now, nine months after the fire, here in Pune this process makes me feel naked, transparent: everything is reflected in me and I am reflected in everything.

But, after all, these are only seeming goodbyes. I may leave without being sure that I’ll come back, but no one can take away from me the joy and abundance of all the love that has been given to me and that I have taken possession of, by sharing. And now I can say they have transformed me.

“Experience India wherever you are,” existence seems to keep saying to me. Otherwise how could I feel at peace, in the right place, at the right time?

As here in Pune, where at every street corner you meet friends, the same happens in the residence in Paris: in the lift, on the landing, at the restaurant, at the market, in the garden.

My mind cannot grasp how all this mystery has come about, but I truly feel much loved. Haven’t I been “helped” to pass from the state of “victim” to that of “witness” of an act of criminal madness?

Haven’t the intelligence and far-sightedness of the universe taken much away from me in order to be able to give me even more?

And on top of all this, something strange and new has taken place: it has become difficult for me to pronounce, or even only use in my thoughts, the word “mine”. I don’t regard the flat in Paris as my house; undoubtedly I set it up, I like it and enjoy it, but I don’t regard it as mine. How can something that can be taken away belong to me?

Pune, 11 December 2019

Translated from Italian by Marta Innocenti (with edits by Osho News) – illustration by the author

Suha

Suha is a graphic designer, writer and poet. Originally from Italy she now lives in Paris.

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