newsletter logo: Sangha Reflections

Summer 2001spacer |spacerRead Past Issuesspacer |spacerReturn to WMC Home Pagespacer |spacerE-mail Us

Editor's note:

Over the last year, many of our sangha brothers and sisters have experienced the deaths of family members and loved ones. As a way to hold a space for these sangha members, an evening last fall was dedicated to honoring those whose bodies have died, and offering to each other the gifts of what we hold of them in our hearts. To bear witness and support each other through crucial periods is what sangha living is all about. What participants experienced, though, was perhaps an unexpected depth of practice and sense of gratitude. Sangha light shone on wrenching loss, tender memories, deep-rooted anger, simple joy and the confusion of unanswered questions without distinction or preference. And in all this, we also realized that our loved ones are not gone, but continue on in some form or another.

After our evening of remembrance, it was suggested that we devote a whole newsletter to the theme of death and continuation. So here we've compiled poems and articles in honor of those who have gone ahead of us. Their presence truly continues, in our hearts and minds, and in these words.

Letting Go

By Carolyn Bluemele

I had a difficult relationship with my mother. It was not all that unusual. She was shy and reserved (I called it "rigid and cold"). I was exuberant and warm (father called it "self-willed and melodramatic"). She was critical (subtext: caring). I was critical (subtext: defensive). In our family of three father was on a pedestal, she in the mud. Dad with his crippled ego bought into it and , tottering on that pedestal, ridiculed her. She with her crippled ego bought into it and just tried harder to please him. I bought into it.

One day I woke up a bit drawing of a bird and saw that in putting my mother down I dragged myself down with her. We inter-are. That compounded with watching her difficulties with her own mother, difficulties I did not relish repeating, gave rise in me a desire to love my mother. But try as I might, I couldn't make myself like her and love her the way I wanted. Such things are not directly responsive to the will. I prayed and I engaged in practices to help me. I imagined my mother as a five-year-old child. I imagined my mother's death. These did not do the trick but they did prepare the ground. She was still critical. But she loved me and she too tried very hard. I now think I must have intimidated her. We went along this way for years with various minor breakthroughs along the way.

When she started to suffer the effects of Alzheimers, her True-Self began to shine through. As she started losing her memory, it took all her resources to stay afloat. She no longer had the energy it takes to build high walls of defense. Her

deeper nature peaked through the cracks: soft and vulnerable, alive and caring. A lotus was growing out of the mud. I fell in love. My own walls dropped, and there we were: two hearts wide-open.

She let go of so much: her identity as a travel agent, as a golfer, as a bridge player, as one who loves literature and dance and theater and great cooking and walking the beach, as one who can help others, her independence. She even let go of having been any of these. The more she let go the less there was in the way between us, or between her and anyone else. Her presence was pure and complete. She was not bound by a sense of self; she was not bound by all these categories of self-justification. Her Buddha nature became visible and everyone fell in love with her.

I too had to let go. As her life was dismantled, I let go with her. This required conscious grieving, from time to time we cried together. Only in that letting go could we enter into full acceptance and appreciation of the present. In the letting go, I reassured her that she had lived a good life. In the end I was able to fully, with all my heart say to her five things: I love you; I thank you; I forgive you; I ask your forgiveness; and Goodbye. She died peacefully and with grace.

In her last years, she had become love, unaware of herself as such. As I enter a new phase of letting go in saying goodbye, I carry her sweet smile in my heart. They say the next Buddha will be Maitreya: Buddha of love. This Buddha does appear in our midst and I saw her in my mother's smile. In those last years, my mother gave the greatest gift of all: SHE OPENED THE HEARTS OF ALL WHO MET HER.R

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