While working on Chapter 3, and processing the death of my grandfather 33 years ago, Nani was taken ill. I allowed myself to process through the grief and my feelings through my work. I began to prepare for her departure, as I was drawing and writing about my grandfather's departure all those years ago, almost to the day.
I began to read a lot about death, and when visiting Nani in Casablanca, I reread the Katha Upanishad (below an excerpt from Eknath Easwaran's translation), a dialogue between Nachiketa (a young child prince) and Yama (the God of Death).
Teach me of That you see as beyond right
And wrong, cause and effect, past and future.
I will give you the Word all the scriptures
Glorify, all spiritual disciplines
Express, to attain which aspirants lead
A life of sense-restraint and self-naughting.
It is O M. This symbol of the Godhead
Is the highest. Realizing it one finds
Complete fulfillment of all one's longings.
It is of the greatest support to all seekers.
Those in whose hearts O M reverberates
Unceasingly are indeed blessed
And deeply loved as one who is the Self.
The all-knowing Self was never born,
Nor will it die. Beyond cause and effect,
This Self is eternal and immutable.
When the body dies, the Self does not die.
If the slayer believes that he can slay
Or the slain believes that he can be slain,
Neither knows the truth. The eternal Self
Slays not, nor is ever slain.
Hidden in the heart of every creature
Exists the Self, subtler than the subtlest,
Greater than the greatest. They go beyond
Sorrow who extinguish their self-will
And behold the glory of the Self
Through the grace of the Lord of Love.
To help me visualize him, I found this image of Yama which I carried with me over the days.
Of course, he too found his way into the book...
I contemplated the idea of the Self.
I thought much about death and loss, about light,
energy, stars and constellations.
I also thought much about life, and mostly about Nani's life.
I thought about her very many homes...
I began to think of death as celebration...
celebration of life, of all the moments I was lucky
enough to share with her, of all the stories
and recipes she generously gave me.