In one of the last lectures in the mindfulness meditation lecture series I listened to recently the author tells an old story about a woman of means named Kisa Gotami, who lived during the Buddha’s time, whose young son had died.
Consumed by her grief, she went to everyone in her village, begging them to find a way to bring her son back to life. One villager suggested she go to the Buddha and said he would have the medicine she needed. She began the journey carrying her son, a toddler, in her arms. The Buddha told her to go and find someone whose home had not yet been touched by death and ask them for some mustard seed. The woman went door to door, village to village, thinking the mustard seed would be used for the medicine to bring her son back. But she could find no one whose household had been untouched by death.
Kisa Gotami finally realized she was not alone in her grief and she was then able to accept that the boy in her arms had died. She buried him in the forest and returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and told her that all life is impermanent and every human has been touched by loss and grief; that it is as inevitable and natural as life itself. Once she understood, she was able to accept her son’s death and her suffering ended.
I first heard this lecture in November, the day before I learned my oldest brother had died unexpectedly. The CD set was due back at the library the day before I flew back to Ohio to attend his funeral. I listened to this particular lecture again as I drove to the library and tried to bear in mind what was said about this essential and natural outcome of human existence, of grief and of acceptance.
As my family gathered over Thanksgiving week to say good-bye to Chris, I was grateful that even in sadness we could be together. My sister prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. My family’s laughter echoed in my mother’s dining room. Toasts were made. It had been three years — at my mother’s 90th birthday celebration — since we had last all been together; I know Chris would have liked knowing he’d had a hand in that.
His passing gave me insight into just how precious and fragile life is and reminded me to be mindful of opportunities to express my love and gratitude for those in my life that have shared their lives and love with me.
During this season of joy and reflection, I hope you are blessed with both.
May the road that carries you home for the holidays be paved with love and may be peace be with you.
Wishing all our readers a very Merry Christmas.
Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.