An outward expression of grief

The Taj Mahal is my husband’s favorite place on earth. He always wanted us to go together because he found it so spectacular in different lights. Last year, we celebrated 30 years of marriage and tomorrow, February 15th, will be the 31st anniversary of our engagement. We decided, earlier this month, that seeing the Taj Mahal together was a good anniversary gift to each other.

We arrived on a Thursday night to Agra after an easy drive from Delhi. The Taj is closed on Friday. But that did not stop my husband from enjoying the Taj Mahal. We saw it on Friday from the massive Agra Fort,
IMG_5409 and then again at sunset from across the river.
IMG_5443Even the guide joked that my husband wanted to make sure it was still there. We got up early to see it in the early morning light on Saturday.


We have 50 more of these photos.  Invite us for dinner!

The Makrana marble reflects light differently, and the inlaid stones and carving are an artisan masterpiece.

It is very symmetrical except at the site of the graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal whose graves are not identical.

You might recall that I was able to parlay a visit to Death Valley National Park into a blog about palliative care. It might seem a stretch that I will make a blog about the Taj Mahal into a palliative care topic. But read on…

Mumtaz Mahal, (“the jewel of the court”), the 3rd wife of Shah Jahan was a Muslim from Persia. She married the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1612 when she was 19 years old. She was his favorite wife and companion. But in 1631, she died during the birth of their 14th child. The emperor’s grief was profound, and he ordered the court to remain in mourning for 2 years. He promised her he would never remarry and that he would build a memorable mausoleum in her honor.

Shah Jahan enlisted an architect, and 22,000 laborers who worked along with 1000 elephants for 22 years to build the Taj with semi-precious and precious gemstones and Makrana marble from Rajastan. Shah Jahan spent 32 million rupees in 1632-1653, which is the equivalent of $1,062,834,098 (yep, a billion) in today’s US dollars. His son deposed him soon after the Taj was built. Shah Jahan had started to build a second black marble Taj when his son placed him under house arrest (to stop this expenditure?). Shah Jahan lived in the Agra Fort (in very regal quarters), where he had a view of the Taj Mahal. At his death, he was buried at the side of his favorite wife who predeceased him by 35 years.

As a palliative care professional, I certainly encourage grieving family members, friends, (and health care professionals) to have some outward expression of their grief- a letter, a bench in a park, a memorial fund. It allows the mourning to be shared with others in a symbolic and externalized way. If I had been part of his bereavement team, I might have discouraged Shah Jahan from spending the empire’s money in this way, worried that it was driven by guilt and might cause some complex family emotions. But hey! Full employment for 22,000 people could be considered a good thing.

And for the love of my life and me….we are very glad he showed his love and grief in this way. Happy anniversary Stanley.


Notice the silly man on the right…I would never do that!


One thought on “An outward expression of grief

  1. Sweet story. Beautiful photos too. Particularly the last one
    Glad you both got 1) to this point together and 2) to this place together.
    Happy Anniversary of a wonderful life together. Here’s wishing you much joy in the next 30 years.
    Anne W

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