The car was approaching. I didn’t know how to stop or turn around. I didn’t know what to do or what could be done. So I accepted the inevitable. I closed my eyes. I accepted that I was going to die.
When I was around 5 years old, we got a bicycle – my elder brother and I. It was too big for me. Too big that I couldn’t get my feet on the ground while sitting on the seat.
My brother knew how to ride independently. For me, my father was the training wheels. He used to hold the bicycle and walk or run along, as I would sit and enjoy the feeling of riding. When I think about it, those are few of the most treasured memories of my childhood. I have tears when I consider how much my father did just to have me have some nice feelings.
A few months of father being the training wheels later, I developed the muscle memory somehow. I could then ride the bicycle independently. But I couldn’t get on or off it. My father would help me get on, push along a little bit, and then I would ride it independently. I still hadn’t learnt how to turn around or stop the bicycle. For stopping too, my father would have to catch the running bicycle along with me.
One day, after the usual routine of getting on the bicycle and gaining some momentum with my father’s help, I got too confident. I decided to ride further than I had ever been, towards a street I had never been on. Earlier, it used to be just going to and fro on a straight street near my home. But on that day, I decided to take a left turn.
As I turned left, I saw a street with cars parked on both the sides. Nothing unusual, not so scary, I kept on moving forward. What happened next continues to be one of the most significant memories of my childhood. I faced and accepted death that day.
As I moved a little ahead, I saw a car turning into the street, coming in my direction. Cars were parked on both the sides. There was just enough space for one car to move through. There was me on my bicycle, there was the car slowly approaching towards me and there was my lack of ability to turn around or stop. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see a way out.
I felt heat all throughout my body. As I moved closer to the car, I was almost crying but was too shocked to have tears. I prayed to God to save me but I didn’t see any help coming through, not in the next 20 seconds, at least.
I could do nothing. No one was coming. I surrendered. I closed my eyes. I accepted death.
I accepted the fact that I was going to die.
Of course, I didn’t die. And even if I hit the car that day, I would only have had some bruises from falling (or getting beaten up by the driver). But I didn’t hit the car either.
I rode the bicycle straight, with my eyes closed. Around 10 seconds later, I wondered why I hadn’t died. So I opened my eyes to check how far I was from death. Too far I noticed! I was saved by God. The car had disappeared.
I felt relieved. I thanked God. I don’t know how the car disappeared. I guess it must have turned into another street. I don’t remember if there were any streets to turn into. But if we are to rule out the possibility that God (or some benevolent power) made the car disappear, we will need to assume that.
Okay, let’s get to the point now.
The point is, as a 5 year old, I could accept death that day. That’s what amazes me the most. That even as a small child, when I saw death coming, I accepted the inevitable. I surrendered and was at peace.
Maybe as a child I didn’t fear death much because I hadn’t turned it into a monster yet. As we grow up, we learn a lot of stories about death. When we see death, we see people crying and grieving for days, even years. We see that others around us see death as something bad. And we come to associate death with all the sadness and badness. Of course, experiencing death of someone close to us can be very painful. Grief is normal. But here I want to focus on death as a personal experience.
All that we know about death is second hand knowledge. Only the ones who die, know what it’s like to die. All we have, is a story about death. For most of us, the story is one of horror.
What if we let go of our stories about death?
The 5 year old child, didn’t have a story about death that day.
He surrendered and was at peace.