Death and a flooding sun
On the 8th of March, my mother died. It was the first sunny day in weeks.
She had hoped to live another spring. She loved her garden – the fragrance of the soil in the spring time. The rusty statue of a deer by the pond, with one of the antlers missing. The birch trees. The stone wall flower beds. The big rocks leaning on each other, making a natural fireplace. The mighty mountains framing the garden and the houses in the small neighborhood.
This day in early March, the snow still embraced the mountains and the garden, like a thick winter blanket. Still covering the one-antlered deer, as it did that winter many years ago, when the antler broke.
My mother didn’t get to experience another spring. She got one last sunny day; The sound of the melting ice dripping from the roof. The shiny mountains outside the windows, like silent angel wings. Embracing everything. Untouched by everything.
One moment it’s here
I had been with her night and day those last two weeks.
Eight months earlier my mother was a healthy 72 year old. In August she got to know that she had cancer, but most probably with many good years still to live. Only two weeks ago, they found out that the bone marrow cancer had evolved into blood plasma leukemia.
The sun felt almost brutally beautiful that day, shining so bright into the living room and into our breaking open hearts.
When mom woke up from her rest that afternoon, the connection in her eyes was slipping. She looked at me, without really seeing me. Disappearing into a space where I could not reach.
For some short moments she was back, meeting my eyes – with a little smile on her face, and a helpless acceptance in her eyes.
Shade for the dying
The low afternoon sun was flowing into her bedroom. I don´t know if she was aware of it any longer. I don´t know how much she was still in touch with this world of her family, of the shining sun and the melting snow, of my father’s tears wetting her blanket. We hung bedsheets to give shade for her dying body. Two warmhearted nurses and friends came to help us, taking care of her with loving, trained hands.
The sun went down. Slowly, slowly everything dissolved into darkness. The forest disappeared. Her beloved garden disappeared. Only the starry night sky and the angel-wing shining mountains could still be seen outside the windows. The dimmed bedside lamp was the only light in the room.
Her body was still breathing. Breathing. Breathing.
I sat by her feet, held my hands on her ankles.
The loving nurses removed some sweaty clothes from her skin. Then. Suddenly. My mothers eyes changed, like a release of flowing emptiness. Her breath stopped.
What is left
I sat with her empty body, while silence and her soul filled the room and the universe. We opened the windows, and she was – in the angel-wing mountains, in the starry sky, in our hearts.
In the bed lay the dead body of the woman that has carried me in her belly, who has raised me and taken care of me. Who I have longed for nearness with, and avoided to be close to. Who I have sought to be accepted and seen by, and many times have hidden my true face from. Who I have been bitter with and been hurt by – and who I myself have hurt and rejected. Who had pushed all my buttons, and triggered all my human dramas.
The bottom line; in bed lay the dead body of my mother, this woman I have loved – that I love – so much deeper than all this. That I am grateful for, so much deeper than all this.
Many times those last two weeks of her life, when I was with her and took care of her, when I sat by her and knew she was dying, I asked myself; is there anything I need to talk with her about before she dies?
I could not remember anything. I could not even remember what it should have been. In this space of death and love, none of our stories mattered. None of our hurts, dramas or differences, mattered. There was only love left.
I could feel her in the emptiness of the sky, in the fresh air I inhaled by this open window – in the peace that embraced me through this sacred night. And the morning after, she softly caressed me in the rays of the morning sun.
Not one single cloud entered the sky in the ten days from she died, until after her funeral.
“In this space of death and love, none of our stories mattered. None of our hurts, dramas or differences, mattered. There was only love left.”
My gratefulness to you
My farewell with my mother, my gratefulness to her – was through holding her hand these sleepless nights when I helped her to the bathroom. Through wrapping her in with the duvet, and making her pillows right. Through letting her rest in my eyes in the gap in the middle of a sentence, when she had forgotten where the sentence had started and where it was supposed to go. By making her porridge in the morning, the way her mother had made it for her when she was sick as a child. To wet her dry lips that evening she died.
The funeral I looked at more as something «I just had to go through».
But the sun just wouldn’t stop shining. Even in the dark stave church the sun flooded in through the small windows, flowing over the golden chandelier and the cobwebs, her coffin and the flowers and the tears. My father’s shivering hands.
The funeral became a precious gift.
Where we can meet
Something magical happened in those days around my mother’s death. In my family, and in the meetings with friends and strangers too. In this space of death and honesty and helplessness – We could meet naked. We could meet real, from the heart, from vulnerability.
Outside the local grocery shop, I met a close friend of my mother. We embraced each other for a long time there in the warmth of the sun, in the sound of melting snow dripping, and in the tears that ran down her cheeks.
Differences disappeared. We met in what we all have in common.
Love is love – No matter which religion you belong to. No matter which political opinion you have. No matter how you have chosen to live, if you are rich or poor, if you are educated or not.
– And death comes to us all.
A tumor in my breast
Five months after my mother died, I found a big lump inside my right breast.
The doctor looked at me with serious eyes; «It is big», she said. «Yes», I answered, «it must have grown very fast».
«Do you have any cancer in the family?», she wondered.
«My mother died in March», I replied.
A few days later I was in the hospital for mammography, ultrasound and biopsy. The next weeks, the only thing I could do was to wait for the test results to be ready.
How can I share these days with you? How can I share the silence and the depth that followed? How can I share the helplessness in being reminded; my life is not in my hands, it can end at any moment?
I cried in seeing that I would maybe have to tell my children that I had cancer, just after they lost their grandmother so suddenly. I cried, till it really sunk in; it is not in my hands. There is absolutely nothing I can do for or against it.
Then, a relaxation, a landing – in trust.
Not the trust that « everything will be fine». Not the trust that «nothing will go wrong, I am not sick, I will not die».
Trust, no matter what comes. Trust, no matter what happens.
A seeing; there is a point, where life is not in my hands. My children’s lives are not in my hands. I can accept it – or I can suffer.
Die before you die
One morning, close to the day I was supposed to receive the test results, by chance I looked at a picture of Swaha. Before any thought had the time to appear, tears started to flow down my face.
The questions arose: What if this is it? What if my life ends here, now? What if this is as long as I got the chance to serve the master? What if I have shared what I got the time to share this life, with my loved ones, with strangers, with the world?
What if I have seen Swaha’s face for the last time?
Soon we will start the winter retreat «Sacred Silence – from Death to Deathlessness» with Swaha in Dharma Mountain. We will have a 6-day meditation process called «Never Born, Never Died». A part of a process like this is that we are guided on an imaginary journey, closer and closer to our own death. Through facing our own mortality, we become more aware about how we are living. In inquiring into what is dying, we may glimpse what is not dying.
In life, many times we do not get this chance to prepare ourselves for death. Many times death comes unexpected.
«Die before you die», is the invitation from the mystics.
“How lucky I am, to have loved so much, to have danced so much, laughed so much, cried so much – and dived so deep.”
What if this is it?
What if there are no six months left to live, no one month left to live? What if there is no time to finish what I would like to finish? What if this is it?
I cried the whole day. First in a flood – this life is so beautiful, it is so precious – there is so much beauty still to be shared, so much aliveness, tears and laughter still to burst. So much love to shower. And I felt this urge; I don´t want to lose it, I don´t want to lose this chance.
Then, more and more, the tears came in gratitude, in awe. In seeing; if this life ends here – how lucky I have been!
How lucky I am to have lived this life, to have flowed with a living master, to have surrendered to love, to him. How lucky I am, to have loved so much, to have danced so much, laughed so much, cried so much – and dived so deep.
Life has already given me so much more than I could ever have dreamt about. How can I ask for more?
I don´t have cancer. The tumor was removed, studied and analyzed. It was no cancer.
Many times, when someone dies or gets sick, I hear people saying; «It is so unfair». As if life and health is a «right» we have. So often we are taking life for granted.
What if we turn it around?
I have done nothing to «deserve» life. There is nothing I have accomplished that makes life a «right» of mine. And there is nothing I could have done.
Every breath – every single breath I inhale – is a bonus.
Instead of asking for more, instead of begging for more or demanding more – let me be thankful for every moment I am blessed with, every sun ray that touches my face, every breeze that caresses me. And every storm that shakes me too.
Let me not forget, for one single moment, the mortality of this body.
That reminds me how lucky I am – how lucky I am to dance in this sacred body on this sacred earth! For a short moment of time.
(This sharing was first time published in the blog at Dharma Mountain´s webpage 15th of January 2017)