I REMEMBER WHEN my grand-father died. I was pretty young then; the exact age escapes me. He was so cool. There was nothing I didn't like about him. He was a rip to hang out with. He was nice to people. He ate and drank with gusto and made his own Italian wine in the basement. Okay, he drank a bit much, but I didn't care. I loved the hell out of him.
It might have been Christmastime the memories are confused. The phone rang, and then I could hear my mother crying down the hall. After a twenty-minute drive to my grandmother's house, we went inside and my grandmother was flipping out and everything was hellish.
The ambulance had already left. My grandfather was in the hospital.
In the waiting room, waiting. I was young, but old enough to feel. We walked a hallway, into a doctor's white office.
"I'm sorry …"
And the Long Island funeral home was it Long Island? I can't remember…
I have pictures from those days. My face was a lot less angry then than it would become. In some ways I miss those times.
I was dressed in a black suit, very confused, peering inside the coffin. My wet eyes looked at his. Or were they his? There was only stillness, and the makeup I wish they'd never put on him.
I returned to my seat remembering his loud, playful voice and his funny Italian nicknames for us kids. The same mouth was in the coffin, the same eyes, but now they were still.
The realization gradually began to build. The same eyes. The same mouth. The same calloused, furniture-building hands that had tussled my hair. The same. The same but so different.
Was he still behind those eyes?
His body was there, but he had left.
When you die, your body is right there, but you are not. You are not. You are not … he is not … I am not …
… this body.
Vraja Kishor Dasa joined the Hare Krsna movement four years ago. He and his band, 108, are based at ISKCON's temple in Towaco, New Jersey.