I don’t as a rule post much or reply a lot on the forum(s) here…. I do visit every day and feel very close to all of you. I just do not feel as facile at commenting or going with the flow of discussion threads. I do, however, increasingly find myself wondering throughout the day how each of you are…. and I think about Eika and his wife, Louis and his sister, Jennifer and her cat, and our sangha mates who experience loss, illness, suffering, and the many occurrences of daily life that we would just rather avoid, ’cause they just hurt too much….
I find that each day I say metta for my friends and a silent prayer. My sittings have grown in length, I chant and say wellness prayers, I read the Heart Sutra, I send time in the morning silently cataloguing the things I have to be grateful for. For me, this is a big deal.
You see, for much of my life I have been a very selfish, self centered individual. I need this practice because without it, I am am not a very nice person. Many vistas have been opened for me since I have been hanging out with you – I cry randomly sometimes when sitting, I think of my friends, and silently breath in and out, sending them warm energy and thoughts. I have also found great joy in snowflakes and monarch butterflies…. In the process, I have found that this practice is nothing that special, because it does not confer any special benefits or powers. It just allows me to be a human being – to feel the joys of sunlight and laughter, to feel the sadness of loss and impermanence, to reach out silently when my friends here go through the ups and downs of life.
So this practice did nothing really special for me today when I got word in the morning that a dear old friend (in the hospital since Friday on a ventilator) had decided to put an end to his suffering – to go off the ventilator and pass on. He announced this to his wife and daughters at 9 AM, and at 2 PM he was gone. He had a mutiple myeloma as well as pneumonia, so the prognosis was not good. He did not want to be a burden to his family… . His wife called me late morning and asked if I would come to the hospital. I went to the hospital and said goodbye to my friend. I saw that he was radiant in the knowledge that he had made a decision after a tiring illness, and I was the one who was a mess – my feelings of loss have more to do with my own resistance to change, with my own struggle with impermanence (which I will lose), and the fact that tonight, I miss my friend. He taught me a great lesson today, even as he had only minutes left on this earth, in this form…. he radiated love and gratitude…. and he taught me something about friendship.
I cried all the way home…. what does Zen have to say about this – “When you feel like crying – cry-” …. I hugged my wife and kids extra hard this evening. I have lit a candle on the kitchen table for my friend, at the place where he used to sit and drink wine while visiting. I will have a small service for him tonight when I sit, and for a my friends here who are experiencing life “as it is”…. regardless of what we want, or desire, or wish to avoid….
This practice has done nothing for me…. so I am able to be just a human being…. the tears flow…. and so does the gratitude…. my time and your time and our time will come but it would not mean anything if we didn’t have only one chance at it. It wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have something to be attached to, something to lose, and therefore a practice to help us realize the suffering caused by these attachments and notions of permanence. I need this practice…. every minute of every day. So thank you for practicing with me.
A deep bow,