Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

I have stories to tell from New Year’s, and Mendocino, and the general endings of 2007 and going-forth-ness of 2008 — but first I need to take a moment to reflect, once again, upon death and loss.

Since my brother died, every day is strange and different, difficult and sometimes joyful in the most unexpected ways. But the thing that I have continually come back to is the utter non-uniqueness of my experience.

So many people came/still come forward to express not only their sympathy, but their empathy to reminded me that I am not alone in this pain.

I am reminded again today of our good old Buddhist-Buddies and their motto that “Suffering is a Part of Life”:

Today I found out that my father’s very good friend was in a car accident with his two sons, fracturing ribs and jaw and nerves; his other friend — a kind, quiet man who we just saw at my brother’s memorial — committed suicide; and the mother of my friend and yoga teacher finally passed away after a 6 year battle with cancer.

“This has been a hard winter,” my mom said, her eyes losing their focus into the floor. Her shoulders dripped heavy.

“I’m beginning to think this ain’t an exceptional winter,” I said, catching her eyes, “I’m beginning to think this is just life.”

* * *
I came across an old thought I had jotted into the corner of some notebook. It read, Life, for the strong ones, is just a series of good-byes.

I know many of you Readers out there have had to say good-bye at some point in your life — whether it from death, the leaving of someone, a particular time in your life, a dream, some other letting go — and those of you who haven’t, will.

For your benefit, and certainly for mine, I’m posting a favorite story of life, and death, and inseparable nature of the two — and the strange peace that can be found because of it.

* * *

The story of Krishna Gotami

When Krishna Gotami’s first child was one year old, it fell ill and died. Grief stricken and clutching it’s little body, she roamed the streets begging anyone who could to give her medicine to restore her child’s life. Some ignored her, some laughed, and some thought she was mad. Finally she met a wise man who told her the Buddha was the only person who could perform such a miracle.

So she went to the Buddha and laid her child at his feet. The Buddha listened with infinite compassion. Then he said gently,

“There is only one way to heal your affliction. Go down to the city and bring me back a mustard seed from any house that has not lost a parent, grandparent, child, or friend. ”

Krishna Kotami felt elated and she ran out to the city to find a house that had never had a death. Each home she came to, the people took pity on her and offered her their mustard seed. But when she then asked if they had ever lost a parent, grandparent, child or friend? they answered “Alas, the living are few; but the dead many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief.” She went all around the city asking but there was no house but that some beloved had died in it.

She took the body of her child to bury and said goodbye to him for the last time and then returned to the Buddha.

“Did you bring the mustard seed,” he asked.

“No,” she said.” I’m beginning to understand the lesson you are trying to teach me. Grief made me blind and I thought that only I had suffered at the hands of death.”

* * *

§413 · January 7, 2008 · Unthinkable Loss · · [Print]

1 Comment to “The Winter of our Discontent”

  1. alia says:

    Yes. That’s a strong story isn’t it? I will remember that for sure. Thank you.

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