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Emails to my Therapist

Dying Into The River: Email to My Therapist

Nicholas, Recent brushes with death have been on my mind — and now, by chance, a story of mine has just been published that takes me back to when I saw the shocking reality of death on the Ganges, the dying into the river. I was 41 years old at the time (in 1991) and fairly new to the idea of being not-young. Now I’m getting used to the idea of being “older” with death inevitably closer and I was curious to revisit my view of it then.

The story is pulled from the journal I kept of my three months in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi as I was doing research for my novel Sister India.

The article is in the fascinating waterway-themed issue of South Writ Large. I’ve always felt that water embodies magic and I’m not alone in that view.

I’ve pasted the first paragraph of my story below. I’d love for you to have a glance at the full article: “Holy Waters: A Ganges Baptism.”

First I saw the iconic photos of the Indian holy river city—the wildly exotic skyline of the old maharajahs’ palaces along the Ganges, the smoking funeral pyres, the sunrise bathers at water’s edge. For me, the dusk and dawn pictures of Varanasi, with the turrets, fires, and smoke rising above the curved riverbank made the place seem almost a mirage, a watery oasis no traveler could ever reach. But for more than 2,500 years, Hindus have come here on pilgrimage. Varanasi is the home of Shiva: creator, destroyer, and sustainer of life. This city is the most auspicious place for a Hindu to die, the place to be released from the cycle of rebirth.

Read more…. and, if you will, say what you think.



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  • May 17, 2017 at 9:18 am Reply

    “I felt no logical reason…I simply felt pulled.” You’ve pointed out a truth of life that so many deny. And then there’s your beautiful baptism at the end/beginnnig. Thanks again for another thought-provoking piece.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply

      Thanks for pointing out the beginning at the end, Jim. I hadn’t thought of it that way!

  • Lee Grohse
    May 17, 2017 at 11:58 am Reply

    I read this some years ago. Loved it then, love it now. Beautifully descriptive.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply

      Thanks, Lee.

  • May 17, 2017 at 3:45 pm Reply

    Peggy, this is great! Congratulations on the publication of that story.​ And I have wanted to apologize for not following your recent blog posts on the effects on you of your recent brushes with mortality. I surmise that I have been distracted by having too many “effects of mortality” myself of late, for I, too, often mention mortality in this or that post or comment. I’m glad that I have much material to publish by various members of my blog staff (, which serves to take me away from my personal concerns.

    Ironically, as my wife and I have been preparing for a traveling vacation, it occurred to us to make preparations for the “execution of our estate” in the event that “something” should befall us on our travels. This has prompted us to update our wills, assign powers of attorney, arrange for our dog to be placed in a new home, if it comes to that, put his meds, etc. in a more rational configuration than we have been maintaining (and draft what has become a fairly lengthy description of his routines and various ills – allergies, mostly, but allergies affecting much: prescription medications, special foods, weekly baths, daily eye washes, regular eye drops…). I never thought there would be so much to organize before departure. And there never was…until mortality gained such a prominent place in our thinking….

    • Peggy Payne
      May 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm Reply

      We bought travel insurance for the first time last fall, moristotle. So I know what you’re talking about. Wish you well with your health!

      • May 20, 2017 at 2:49 pm Reply

        Thank you, dear Peggy! Well wishes all around!

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