When things don’t make sense most of us try to seek answers. The way in which we seek these answers varies. Some people turn to drink or drugs- others to God and church and just about everything in between.
I started studying astrology books when I was about 14, then psychology; occasionally I reverted to my Catholic upbringing, seeking answers in a book I didn’t understand and for the most part didn’t believe. I wrote in journals, smoked and drank and still the answers I was seeking never revealed themselves.
By the time I was 19 years old, I had already experienced many things that did not make sense, but then the worst thing happened. My best friend’s four-year-old nephew, a boy the same age as my little niece, died.
Grief surrounded the family, my other family, and changed everyone forever. I remember writing in my tear stained journal, hoping I could write a great story someday and dedicate it to Baby Warren, because I knew I would never forget him. I never have.
Baby Warren’s funeral was the first I ever attended. His tiny coffin in the chapel was just the saddest thing I had ever seen. Every face there was tear-stained and hopeless, angry and sad. Everyone wondered why.
Since then I have attended so many funerals I can’t really count anymore. None as young as Warren; but many were too young to leave this earth; just barely touching the ground.
Earlier this month my son’s 53 year - old father died suddenly after returning home from a day of work. Some of us- the left behinds are wondering why. Why so soon? Why now? Why?
The first person to call me and make sure I was okay was that same best friend whose nephew died forty years earlier.
I always wonder if there is some lesson in it for us left behinds. And, of course there are several. I say it all the time. Life is short. Yet still I’m always shocked when someone’s life is cut short.
The other lessons seem so obvious but we forget them all the time. Love your family and friends. Be there when they need you. Enjoy the little things like an ice cream cone on a sunny day and the big things like the Grand Canyon. Understand your significance in the grand scheme and in the moment.
The Japanese Buddhist have an annual event called Obon. It is believed that each year during Obon the spirits of ancestors and loved ones return to this world to visit their relatives. This Japanese Buddhist custom is to honor the souls of one's ancestors and is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one's ancestors and loved ones. I will attend Obon this year- and gratefully remember all my loved ones and ancestors that have left this material world.
With the passing of my son’s dad, Jon, I went once again looking for answers. This time I have found something I am willing to accept, as well as some peace of mind. I dug out my old book “The Teaching of Buddha” that I bought at the Buddhist Bazaar 15 years ago. I read it then- but now I understand.
If we are lucky, we will be remembered forty years after we are gone. Someone will think about us and remember the love, the hugs, the silly smile, the belly laugh, and the wise eyes.
If we are lucky, we will be loved long after we are gone because that is what helps those who are left behind.
I took a lovely walk with my son today and we remembered a fun time with his dad at the same park. We laughed remembering his dad manning the paddle boat while I gave up and smoked a cigarette and Nick said “Faster daddy, faster!”
There is a way to let them go and hang on at the same time.