Some Reflections on Aging and Mortality

three sisters, circa 1946

From left - Aunt Narayani (Kunja), my mother, Aunt Sivakami

My dear aunt Sivakami (affectionately known to family and friends as Baby)  passed away almost exactly a year ago.  She was the last remaining of my mother's siblings. 

Her husband, my Uncle NS had called me from Singapore in early march to let me know that she was ailing rather badly, and that her time was drawing nigh. 

After taking a few days to settle matters and tie up loose ends, I caught a flight out there.

It was rather troubling seeing her looking as old and frail as she was. I had taken to visiting every year, and the last time  I had seen her,  while not quite sprightly, had been in reasonably decent shape given her age and physical condition.

We got her admitted to hospital a few days after I got there. I stayed for about 3 weeks, then had to leave to get  back to work. We had arranged for a steady stream of visitors - my sister, some cousins, etc. to come by and help out. My uncle, being in his 80's no longer drives. 

I had already scheduled a trip out to Singapore for the end of May with my family, as we have done annually for several years. She was still in hospital when we returned. Her condition had gotten much worse by this time. She had gotten very weak and while she was occasionally lucid, most of the time she barely spoke.

A few days before I was scheduled to leave, she passed away. I postponed my departure to help with the arrangements. In a sense, it was something of a release. Her quality of life was very poor, and there was no question of any sort of recovery.

All of her working life, she had been an eminent physician, and had risen high in the ranks of the Civil Service. Now she was reduced to an invalid unable even to feed without great agony. How strange life is.  

I've recently written a song tentatively entitled "See the Mighty". My observations from last year figure highly in it. It's not quite done yet, still that hasn't prevented me from performing it on a few occasions. I hope to do record a demo soon, and I will release it on my podcast. 

The second verse, which is largely about my aunt goes like this -

She used to read Immanuel Kant / Used to be a debutante /Second in her class at medical school / Never was she anybody's fool / But looking at her the truth be told/ I never want to get that old     ©2006, Jim M Kam

She was not a debutante by any stretch - the family was of pretty humble means in those days. Instead it is a pun - debutante rhymes with "ma tante" which means "my aunt" in French, a language that Aunt Sivakami studied as a hobby. I'm have no idea what her rank in medical school was, but it was way up there.

Originally I had come back from a Johnsmith concert inspired to write a nice uplifting song. John does them so well. As I put pen to paper though, this is what emerged. Basically the message is that you may be pretty hot stuff now, but just give it a little time. Father Time has a wry sense of humor.

So there you have it. Started to write a jig, and ended up with a dirge. Seeing as even my more cheerful compositions tend to be laments, why should this be any different?


Copyright © 2006 Jim M Kam, All rights reserved. Chapman Stick is a registered Trademark of Stick Enterprises