Life and Death

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Chris E-S

    I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. It seems as if I am surrounded by reminders of mortality: the news of the death of a friend from another Sangha who had been fighting cancer for many months; the variegated holly bush I had planted in memory of our old cat Tibbie after she died in 1998, which had seemed to be doing so well in recent years but suddenly began dropping its leaves and is now a bare skeleton; the baby pigeon I had rescued from the clutches of a crow who looked as if if was going to survive, but then died during the night. Death, it seems, is all around.

    There are other reasons for my increasing awareness of mortality, the most obvious being that I was suddenly struck by the thought that I have far fewer days ahead of me now than I have behind. I’m not yet at the stage where I think everyday is an unexpected bonus but, as I get older still, no doubt that will happen.

    I think of my father who lived into his 100th year. I wonder, when he reached his late 90s, did he go to bed each night thinking, “Will I wake up tomorrow?” And when the morning came, did he greet it with “Wow, I’m still here – amazing!” What must it be like to be so very old and be so aware of the nearness of death? Perhaps I will be like Dad and find out; perhaps not.

    Another reason that death is on my mind is because I’ve recently discovered my paternal grandparents’ grave. I never knew my grandparents – they died long before I was born – but it is sobering to see that neither of them lived to a great age. In fact, I am now several years older than Grandad was when he died.

    You may be thinking that all these thoughts of ageing and death must be making me feel down. Perhaps surprisingly, the opposite is the case. I am finding that the older I get the more precious each day is. A heightened awareness of my own mortality seems to have made me more open to life – to the beauty in the birth of each Spring, to the freshness of new life around me.

    Yes, death is certainly all around, but so is life in all its beauty. My friend’s Sangha held a celebration of her life, where all those attending who knew her spoke warmly of their memories; it felt as if she lives on in the hearts of those who remember her with such love. In the tree next to the dying holly bush, my resident Robin is waiting for me to fill its seed feeder, whilst a blackbird higher in the tree sings its joyous song. In the corner near to where the baby pigeon is buried, I notice a single, beautiful wild orchid is growing.

    Death is just a part of the eternal cycle of renewal and rebirth. We are born, we live, we die, and we return to our Mother Earth. My Buddhist faith allows me to accept this reality and not to fear it. For that I am truly grateful. Namo Amida Bu.

    No Comments