Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Death comes without warning

My Uncle John died last week. He was the husband of my mother's sister, who died several years back. He and my my mother were the elder generation at family parties in our hometown; now it's just her watching over my cousins, their children, and their grandchildren on holidays.

I called my mom the evening of John's funeral, assuming that she would be upset. I would have liked to accompany her, but I couldn't make it to the funeral.

But she wasn't down at all. She told me that she had told Uncle John to "put in a reservation for me."

"Did you give him a day and time?" I asked.

No, she said. When it was her time. Some other people might have to go first.

If you listen to enough dharma talks, you'll hear that fear of death is the root fear, that everything else boils down to the fact that we are afraid to die. But I don't feel that. (At this point I either get pouty or want to slink out of the room because everyone is deathly afraid of death.)

My mom knows where she's going. She's got a seat at the table. If she's right, I'm sure she'll make space for me and my family.

I don't know what happens after death. It doesn't much interest me. If I have any control over that, it's about what happens in this life/in this day/in this moment. My only control over the future, on earth and in the hereafter, is how I act now. If I live with kindness and compassion -- as much as possible -- then it pays off in how I feel now and what the results of my actions will be.

Every morning I recite:
My death is certain; the exact time is unknown. Knowing this, what is most important?

To me, the answer is clear. What do you say?

Godspeed, Uncle John. Say hi to my dad.

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