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Thread: Dealing with death

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Dealing with death

    For the second time in as many weeks, someone close to me has died. The first was a friend and colleague who I'd known for a dozen years. We were both freelancers, and we worked together many times, and were often in touch just to chat, even though she lived far from me (in Paris; I'm in southern France). She died giving birth, which is something rare these days, but there was a complication that was known about before she delivered, and things just went bad. She leaves behind three kids and an unemployed dad.

    Today, I found out that a physical therapist who I saw twice a week for several years - and who was also a friend, and leader of a kids' ski club near where I live - was killed in Morocco during a carjacking/robbery. He had moved from France to Morocco on retirement, having recently married a French/Moroccan woman.

    I've never had people close to me - even though these were not really close friends - die so suddenly, and two so close together. Especially the second case, I've never know anyone to suffer violence, even being mugged or injured (and I grew up in NYC).

    I find this hard to accept, even though I want to try and accept it. Grieving is natural, but it's not something I've ever been good at (such as when people in my family died).

    I know there's nothing I can do, and what is past is past, but it makes me sad.

    I'm not even sure why I posted this, but I have a feeling that in this forum many people have suffered similar losses, and I'm reminded of the story where the Buddha told a woman to fetch a mustard seed from a house where no one has ever died...

  2. #2

    Re: Dealing with death

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc

    I find this hard to accept, even though I want to try and accept it. Grieving is natural, but it's not something I've ever been good at (such as when people in my family died).
    .
    ...and not many people are. Not at least the people that I know. Grieving is hard.

    This past two weeks, my mother suffered an embolism. We all thought she was going to die. She came close to the end. But. She did manage to survive. She is healing still. At the same time, my godfather who is like my father in my life is 87. He like an ember cooling down with faint orange fire of life coming to that point of his cycle. We know this time will come, but we will grieve and will not be easy.

    Peace in your heart.

  3. #3

    Re: Dealing with death

    Death puts us face-to-face with so much. Kirk, all I can offer (besides heart feelings) is a suggestion to take your time. Deep stuff, mental and physiological, is going to be going on for some days, maybe several weeks. Give it the time and care and openness it deserves. Some people say it's good for the dead person as well, if they felt a connection to you. And of course shikantaza. Be well.

  4. #4

    Re: Dealing with death

    Dear Kirk,

    My thoughts to you your friends and family, all not apart.

    I am glad you mentioned the story of the mustard seed ... I have put a link to one version here ...

    viewtopic.php?p=19611#p19611

    Well, after "all these years of Zen" I will tell you what I have "learned" about losing a friend or someone we love ... Allow me a serious tone ...

    I have learned that it breaks one's heart. The Buddha often spoke of 'being torn apart from those we love' as one root of basic human suffering. We cry, we remember (the good and the painful), we long and our heart is broken. We grieve just as all human beings grieve. Love and friendship snatched away, orphaned children and widowed spouses, loss. ... Unbearable loss and pain.

    We all know death and dying in our house, none of us can offer a mustard seed.

    ... but I have also learned this:

    We live with "what is". Strange as it sounds, our suffering in life is often compounded because we push it away, rather than allow the pain. There is a difference between the pain of loss, and the pain of punishing oneself further by wishing to be free of the pain of loss. That is much like being burned by a flame, then fanning and burning oneself again with a flame in protest of the first. Sitting fully and completely with "what is" means sitting with "our feeling of rejecting what is" ... for that feeling of rejecting is, itself, "just what is" in that moment.

    And in so doing ... the fire remains, but much of its fuel and fanning is removed.

    So, when one's heart is broken ... allow each shattered piece as perfectly broken. Cry a Bodhisattva's cry, allow the past (both the good and painful). Grieve, realizing that "to grieve in the face of death" is a natural human condition. Feel loss, and do not push it away ... for there is now a space in one's life which before was filled. Eyes flooded with tears, unbearable sorrow ... do not push these away, for we are human and such is the human condition. The unbearable is borne.

    ... and I believe that I have learned this too:

    There is that taste with never any loss, no death, no separation ... no time, thus never a time to be apart. There were never two of you. It is much like the leaves of the tree, some of which wither and fall away in the autumn ... yet the tree remains, and is what the leaves truly were all along. Where that tree goes and grows is our very going and growth. There is no loss, for never can that be taken away. All feeling of separation between life as-it-is, and life as-I-may-wish-it-to-be dropped away ... and 'I' too.

    Now, that does not mean we have all the answers on such questions (often "not knowing" is the answer), but it does leave - for me at least -a sense of deep trust, allowing ... confidence, gratitude, yielding. I believe we sense the deep interconnection of all phenomena of this world, taste that our birth in sentient form was not but random outcome, sense a reason and direction to human life and all of creation, honor this place, express deep gratitude, trust and a willingness to embrace what is ... much like being born upon a stage in a mysterious theatre and, without seeing all there is to see behind the curtain, allowing the show to go on. Characters step on and off this stage. I sometimes compare our attitude to that of innocent babes with a deep trust in this source and world that birthed us, that feeds us and which somehow allows us air to breathe. As the spring time comes following the winter, and life returns ... so do we allow the winter to come and life to fade.

    Oh ... this world is not as we would wish, this garden has many weeds. Some flowers fall before their time, some are unjustly taken. It is a wild place. All we can do (the best to do) is accept the garden on its own terms. For those taken seemingly too early, much "before their time" ... we can drop all thought of time, the long or short. Each leaf and flower lives as long as it lives ... merely returning to the ground and source from which we spring. From that place from which we are miraculously born ... certainly to that place we return, for we never left there at all.

    Finally, I have learned this ...

    Comfort the widow and widower, feed and comfort the orphan. Help find a solution for the violence or disease that may bring such sadness into the world. Perhaps, with time, help those beings yet living find a little peace and understanding too.

    All these "things learned" are true at once, not two or three.

    I am sorry for your loss of your friends, Kirk.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Dealing with death

    Dear Kerk

    Thank you so much for sharing your loss with the rest of us. When I face difficult times, I often go to Jundo to help me screw my head on straight. He always responds and helps me get back on my feet, I am sure he has done the same for you in responding to your posting. The difference is by your posting it here in the forum, we all have benefited from his teaching..

    I cut Jundo's response and the link to the mustard seed story and pasted it in a file where I can find it. I know for sure that next week, next month or whenever, I will need to read it again, for the loss of our love ones and friends is a certainty.

    Take care

    Jim

  6. #6

    Re: Dealing with death

    Thank you Kirk, and thank you Jundo.

    Gassho, and remember, we sit with you even in your loss,

    Mandy

  7. #7

    Re: Dealing with death

    Quote Originally Posted by lorax
    Dear Kerk

    Thank you so much for sharing your loss with the rest of us. When I face difficult times, I often go to Jundo to help me screw my head on straight. He always responds and helps me get back on my feet, I am sure he has done the same for you in responding to your posting. The difference is by your posting it here in the forum, we all have benefited from his teaching..
    No no no no no ... Don't mistake the traffic cop telling folks to keep moving with the person actually doing the driving.

  8. #8
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with death

    Jundo,

    Thank you for your lesson. These are very wise words indeed:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    We live with "what is". Strange as it sounds, our suffering in life is often compounded because we push it away, rather than allow the pain. There is a difference between the pain of loss, and the pain of punishing oneself further by wishing to be free of the pain of loss. That is much like being burned by a flame, then fanning and burning oneself again with a flame in protest of the first. Sitting fully and completely with "what is" means sitting with "our feeling of rejecting what is" ... for that feeling of rejecting is, itself, "just what is" in that moment.
    I guess it all comes down to that, all of our suffering, that we push away and increase the suffering (like the Chinese handcuffs you like to use as a prop). But here, you have hit the nail right on the head.

    I will grieve, as you say, but I will try and keep all this in perspective.

    To the others who replied, thank you as well for your perspectives. Chugai, you seem to have suffered enough for ten people in your life...

    Gassho.

  9. #9

    Re: Dealing with death

    This thread has been good for me to read, as I lost my grandmother a couple of weeks back.

  10. #10

    Re: Dealing with death

    .

  11. #11

    Re: Dealing with death

    Jundo wrote:

    No no no no no ... Don't mistake the traffic cop telling folks to keep moving with the person actually doing the driving.
    That may be trune, but a necessary function when a bunch of us are still operating on a learners permit.
    Again your current chapter for our drivers operating manual is greatly appreciated.

    Jim

  12. #12

    Re: Dealing with death

    When someone dies that you know or have known, especially someone close, there is a real loss and a part of you dies too. As Jundo and others have already said acceptance of this loss, this dying, is important to begin the healing process and the growth of new life. Every few years my bonzai tree loses most of its leaves and I watch and wonder whether it will die or be reborn. I look for a sign of new growth as I care for it and water it. When the first new green comes out it's like a miracle. Then I know that its life will continue. The acceptance of this life and this death is very important especially as you grow older. I think sitting is an affirmation of life and let's the healing and growth process be itself. At least it works for my bonzai tree
    /Rich

  13. #13
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with death

    Birth will end in death.
    Youth will end in old age.
    Meetings will end in separation.
    All things in cyclic existence are transient, are impermanent.
    Thanks Undo,

    The Dharma is not designed to protect us from the turmoil and hell of loss. Nothing seems to make sense anymore, people floating, things ugly or tasteless. In the midst of this, the Dharma is what allows us to cry, shout and scream, and just this. Like a boddhisatva jumping into an ocean of fire, we just jump. And no doubt it burns, and no doubt it hurts. No heaven, no "we shall be together again ", no mental gimmicks or ...if we can manage it, nothing. The pure and sole taste of this. Engulfed in flammes. Bare, naked pain with no dress ups. Sitting with tears pooring out of every inch of our skin.As we find the courage and madness to go there, a flower blooms.

    gassho

    taigu

  14. #14

    Re: Dealing with death

    .

  15. #15

    Re: Dealing with death

    Hi.

    Anyone got any "references/links" to "buddhist death/burial ceremonies"?

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  16. #16
    OkieTao
    Guest

    Re: Dealing with death

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    One of my sisters has been shot and killed by a home invader. Instant death. I felt many emotions then and many over the years and what I learned was feel what I feel when I'm feeling it. Not to fight it or try to change it or wish it away or do much else than feel it.I talk about it with folks I can trust if I feel moved to.That it will pass and also it will return.I am a recovering addict so I had some training already through my experience in a twelve step program. What the 12 step experience has taught me mostly to let go and accept reality on it's own terms.That it is o.k. to be powerless. To do what is humanly possible and to accept what is not.
    Twelve calendar years have passed and it is a scar rather than a wound and anymore It is easier and easier to let it go, like the thoughts one watches arrive and depart while sitting. It wasn't my first brush with death and mortality -- I witnessed a bloody gunshot murder when I was six, my best buddy from high school died in a wreck twenty something years ago, couple of friends and acquaintances have committed suicide, one guy I know murdered another guy I knew, mom died of cancer (actually starvation after I disconnected her feeding tube. literally) plus various others. Recently a buddy in Texas died from an overdose of heroin.
    I've had three real good dogs that were as much my friends as human ever was die of aging and disease over the last few years. One just recently ... but Cynthia getting shot down was the toughest.


    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    For the second time in as many weeks, someone close to me has died. The first was a friend and colleague who I'd known for a dozen years. We were both freelancers, and we worked together many times, and were often in touch just to chat, even though she lived far from me (in Paris; I'm in southern France). She died giving birth, which is something rare these days, but there was a complication that was known about before she delivered, and things just went bad. She leaves behind three kids and an unemployed dad.

    Today, I found out that a physical therapist who I saw twice a week for several years - and who was also a friend, and leader of a kids' ski club near where I live - was killed in Morocco during a carjacking/robbery. He had moved from France to Morocco on retirement, having recently married a French/Moroccan woman.

    I've never had people close to me - even though these were not really close friends - die so suddenly, and two so close together. Especially the second case, I've never know anyone to suffer violence, even being mugged or injured (and I grew up in NYC).

    I find this hard to accept, even though I want to try and accept it. Grieving is natural, but it's not something I've ever been good at (such as when people in my family died).

    I know there's nothing I can do, and what is past is past, but it makes me sad.

    I'm not even sure why I posted this, but I have a feeling that in this forum many people have suffered similar losses, and I'm reminded of the story where the Buddha told a woman to fetch a mustard seed from a house where no one has ever died...
    Where is the healthy line to draw between acceptance and outrage? I know that as physicians can never completely defeat death and disease, neither can we completely rid social life of crime and violence. But just as physicians never give up fighting death and disease, should we abandon the struggle to fight social injustice?

    If we find ourselves outraged at some of the cruelties of life, especially those committed by our fellow human beings, is it worth facing those cruelties and doing our best to fight them? Is too strong of a passive acceptance merely an aversion to trying to rectify the bad things in the world? I can definitely see being consumed by the quest for social justice as a harmful attachment, but I wonder if passively accepting injustice might not also be a harmful aversion.

    If a Buddha had some food and found a hungry man in the streets, would he give him food?

    I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I understand how difficult it is. I lost many family members before the age of eighteen to death - and many times death from easily preventable causes.

  17. #17

    Re: Dealing with death

    Quote Originally Posted by OkieTao

    Hi Okie,

    Where is the healthy line to draw between acceptance and outrage? I know that as physicians can never completely defeat death and disease, neither can we completely rid social life of crime and violence. But just as physicians never give up fighting death and disease, should we abandon the struggle to fight social injustice?
    Engaged Buddhism has, as one aspect, something that could be termed "acceptance without acceptance" or "resisting while dropping all resistance", both at once (not two ... like two faces of a single coin). That is part of what we practice in this practice ...

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... tance.html

    Gassho, J

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with death

    Kirk, I have lost more friends to disability related issues than I care to count. I no longer cry when I hear the news. I no longer get drunk on their behalf. I no longer say prayers or send blessings or do anything at all ceremonial for them. But I still grieve. Every time I remember any one of them I grieve, and this happens a lot, almost daily. It's happening right now as I write this. It's all injustice, and it's all beyond my comprehension, so I let it go, or at least I try to. it just IS.

    About a year ago I had a long talk with my mom about this topic. I was afraid that I was not dealing with death in a constructive way, that I never really faced it despite its surrounding me throughout my life, although always at some distance. Despite all the people I have known that have died I have never attended a funeral, and somehow I felt that this kept me from truly meeting those deaths. I know now that this was all just some preconceived notion about how I was supposed to behave around death, in other words it was a delusion. Every time I think of someone I have lost I deal with death, and then after that I deal with life: my life, my death. I no longer see them as separate: death is part of life just as much as life is part of death.

    But none of this really makes it any easier.

    Many bows for your loss..........

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