Hello my fellow human Beings:
For months now I have been reflecting on death and dying as family and friends have passed on from their lives on Earth. Knowing what to say to the family members who are left behind has always perplexed me.
What words of comfort and love can I offer in their time of sadness on the passing of their loved one?
How can I show them that I sympathize with their feelings of grief beyond the general words of condolences?
How can I celebrate the life of their departed loved one?
How can we not feel despondent for the loss?
How can we not feel afraid of our own deaths?
In this time of reflection and reading, I came across these words of comfort and advice by Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hahn in an article entitled “Death and Dying” included in the book, A Blessing In Disguise:
“When a cloud is about to become rain, if the cloud know it is not going to die, it is going to be transformed into rain, then it would not be afraid at all. To be a cloud in the sky is very beautiful. But to be the rain, falling on the grass, is also very beautiful. And with that kind of knowledge, a cloud is not afraid of dying. It is impossible for a cloud to die. A cloud can only become the rain, the snow, or the ice. A cloud can never die, and become nothing.
…Your [loved one] is like that. Your [loved one] has transformed himself [or herself] into other forms. He [or she] is always there, maybe very deep inside of you. If you know how to touch him [or her], then you feel he [or she] is with you twenty-four hours a day. And not only is he [or she] within you, he [or she] is all around you.
…Our beloved one is still there. He or she is like a cloud. If a cloud cannot die, then neither can your loved one. From something, you cannot become nothing. From someone, you cannot become no one. And that is the teaching of the Buddha – to look deeply into our true nature in order to overcome fear.”
He imparts to us with his analogy that death is not an end, but a transformation from our bodily forms on Earth to a new state of Being. That we, and our loved ones, remain always with all those they have touched in their lives through their words, deeds and presence.
So there is no need for us to fear death, as it is just a transformation to a new state of Being. Even though we do not know all the details of the transformation, we know that with love all is possible and all is good. Those parts of our loved ones live on in us and around us, if we can just be still enough to connect with them.
Moreover, author, teacher, and co-founder of The Option Institute and Autism Treatment Center of America, Barry Neil Kaufman in the excerpt entitled “The Final Gift: Honesty” from his book, No Regrets: Last Chance for a Father and a Son tells us that:
“A sequoia can live two thousand years. A squid has a four-year life span. A mayfly, born with the dawn, is gone by dusk. Each life is a whole life, complete in itself. The quality of that life has nothing to do with its longevity, but everything to do with how it is lived.”
He reminds us that the quality, not the quantity, of our lives on Earth is key. Regardless of the length of our lives or those of our loved ones, each life is a whole life.
So in times of death, of our loved ones or in contemplating our own, remember to pause, be still and reflect on the quality of our lives, and connect with and look deeply into the true nature of our Beings. For in so doing, we celebrate the abundance of the lives of our loved ones and continue to strive to live our own abundant lives!