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Amuthevalli "Am" Hewitt | Postal Clark  &  Ellen Hewitt | Artist / Student / Curator

Dear Tina

I wanted to impart some wise, wise wisdom about death but I fear I have very little to offer. Death and I are acquainted. Death has shaped who I am, the art I make, the way I love. But I don't know death well these days. Busy, busy. A hard one to hold I thought I'd refer you to someone else.

But first, my small contribution is this: Death opens its arms for those who are dying, like embraces between old friends. It's the healthy ones it infects and haunts, the ones waiting around the hospital bed. It settles in their bones, deepens their wrinkles, dulls their eyes. It reaches a hand into their chests and wraps its icy fingers around their hearts and squeezes for so long that they forget what it feels like to be alive.

Yet none of them have evidence of their chest being opened. No scars. Unlike me.


They say I'm the one who only had a 50% chance of surviving. But I'm not sure I was the one closest to death.

She (Am) will be able to tell you more about death than I can. Let me refer you to my mother.

Warmest regards,

Ellen Hewitt

Dear Tina,

My daughter told me you wanted a letter about death. Here are my thoughts.

I am Hindu. I believe in Karma. The good and the bad you do in this life shapes your next one. Eventually we have paid all our bad karma and are released from the eternal cycle of rebirth, and finally see God or Gods or eternity.  I don't know.

Amuthevalli "Am" Hewitt (L) with her daughter Ellen Hewitt (R)

In Hinduism, all is one, and one is all. The godly things we refer to are all the same entity.

I often think when I'm feeling sorry for myself that I must have been a bad person in my last life...Especially when my daughter was diagnosed with an undeveloped and deformed heart. She needed what is called a Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return series of operations to live.

I will always remember the day the surgeon said to me, 'Your daughter has a 50% chance of being dead by lunch time'.

I burst into tears. The surgeon had no sympathy. He just asked if we had any questions, told me to say goodbye to my baby and walked off. My husband held my hand, hugged me and comforted me. He was always there for me. I must have done something good in my past life to deserve him.

The surgery took 6 hours. It was the longest 6 hours of my life. We walked outside and all I could do was cry and stare at the sky. It was a beautiful blue. I cursed myself so badly. That's what death did to me - it made me blame myself. I kept thinking, 'I brought her into this world, she doesn't deserve this. I do - take me. Not her'. She was going to disappear in a blink of an eye and I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye properly...I prayed while I was looking at the sky, I asked God to take me, not her and to give her life.

My husband was with me the whole time. I kept asking God when it was going to end. It was a type of pain and sadness I cannot describe. On the other hand...I knew God was by my side...and after waiting for so long, the surgeon came out and said flatly, 'the surgery went okay. You can see your daughter'.

I was so happy, but when we got to her room, I was so shocked. She had 11 or 12 machines connected to her. Her eyes were all puffy. Tubes everywhere. She was like a fragile, dying ceramic doll connected to so many metal things.

This is not what happened when people got sick in Malaysia. This cold white place with metal everywhere was frightening.

I went to her and stroked her face. The kind nurses objected, but I sat there every day, whispering Mundras. Mundras are sacred prayers in my religion...A week later she came out alive. Now she's 23 and transcribing this letter for me...She was a miracle. She had a second surgery years later but it was less risky. Now she's a young lady who can do anything. I've seen it in her heart. In the scans the doctors gave us and now just looking into her eyes.

I know God is real.

I cut my ties from my family in Malaysia to marry my husband in this country. I feel isolated and alone, but it's OK...Because God heard my prayers that time. Now I can say I can die happy because when I do, I can be closer to this God. This isn't scary for me because I know I will be free of the stresses and struggles of life. I have paid my price. Now I am happy, I know now there is nothing to be afraid of. But if I hadn't of come close to losing my daughter, maybe my thoughts would be different. I don't know.

I guess being close to death in this way reinforced what I was always taught - death is not the end. Life and death is just a cycle, once you have paid your karma, there is release and this is a good thing. This you can believe, even if you don’t believe in a higher power.

From, Am Hewitt

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  • Lovely perceptive thoughts. - Pam Cossey (Facebook)
  • I can relate to this one - Luna Louise Harrison (Facebook)
  • Very beautiful story - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)
  • Thanks, truly beautiful letters - Dorothea Ratcliffe (Facebook)