a polaroid of my dad in the 70's.
I thought I would be posting all sorts of fun news but instead...I had a phone call on Friday that my dad had taken a turn for the worse. He died Saturday morning.
I had a flight booked for Saturday morning to fly out to Minnesota to see him and when I cried to Bam that he died so quickly. Bam remarked, "Well, your father was a very decisive man." He is so right. I guess when my dad decided to die, by golly, that was it.
So I am flying out on Tuesday for the viewing, funeral and burial services. I will share my other fun news later when I am back to a more fun mood. In the meantime......here is my favorite classic Buddhist story about death.....
There was a woman named Gotami-tissa who was from a poor family and very skinny. Because of this she was looked down on by her husband's family, until that is she gave birth to a son at which point their contempt for her turned to respect. Unfortunately, a few years later, the boy died and she was beside herself with grief. So much so that she wandered from house to house, begging for medicine that would bring her dead son back to life. Of course, the householders told her that there was no medicine in the world that could bring a child back to life.
In total desperation, she went to the Buddha to see what medicine he could provide. The Buddha told her to go to the city and to bring back a mustard seed from every household that had not experienced death. She thought that there was something in the mustard seeds she collected that would be able to bring her son back to life. But as she progressed first to one household and then to another she met with the same response. None of the households she visited were free from someone who had died. By the time she returned to the Buddha she had come to realize that death was ubiquitous and that what had happened to her had also happened to everyone else. There was, in fact, no cure for death but she herself had been cured of her grief.
For Buddhism, therefore, death is a reality that should not be shied away from. It is a fact of life to be accepted. As he himself lay dying the Buddha talked about how all things are subject to decay and death. Impermanence is a key feature of life. On the other hand, life is precious and should be sustained through right living. The Buddha asks his followers to be aware of death, to accept the inherent impermanence of life and to use this as a motivation for right effort.
One funny tale about my dad's sense of humor.....this was about 2 years ago when my mom was still alive....my dad was taken to an emergency room and my mom and I raced there to find him bleeding like crazy from a badly inserted catheter tube. I was frantic with that powerless feeling of wishing I could do something but my dad was just dealing with it. The nurse came in the room to check on him while we all waited for the doctor and seeing this pink haired tattooed urban chick...(me) she asked where I lived. I replied that I lived in LA and was a musician. At this point...my dad perked up and started chuckling...."Ask my daughter what else she does!"
The nurse smiled and said...."okay. What else do you do?"
I was still pretty tense and looked at my dad ...not sure where he was going with this...."I ...I um....build websites, too."
He laughed harder ...and said "No, no no. Ask what else she does."
The nurse just waited for me to answer. I still looked at my dad who was nearly crying from the laughter now. "I ....umm.....sell travel?"
Now he was almost gasping from laughing himself into hysteria....."NO no no NO! What else Share?!" He practically shouted at me and the nurse. By now my mom was giggling her head off as well and I couldn't figure it out. Then it dawned on me.
My dad burst into full-fledged raucous laughter while bleeding profusely from his infected catheter tube. Now my mom joined in the hysterics and the nurse simply dropped her mouth wide open. My dad sat there laughing and shouting, "My daughter knits. My rock n roll Share ....knits!"
I am fortunate in that I knew my father and felt we loved each other very deeply. I was the apple in my father's eye! The day I was born, my mom had told the doctor that my dad wanted a little girl ....when my dad walked in the room, they announced a baby boy. My mom said his face fell and then he smiled big. Of course, she started laughing and said, "No, no John. We're kidding. She's a girl!" And she said he was so very very happy. He was proud of me and me of him. He was a good dad and I am thankful his death seemed to be a peaceful one. I will miss him, miss his deep laugh, miss his incredibly blue eyes, miss his extra dry wit and yet be thankful that I am part of him.
Dad....you will be remembered.