Have you heard the story of the Buddha and Kisa Gotami?
Kisa Gotami was a woman who had lived a hard life with little kindness. Her husband was cruel to her, and her only joy was her son. When her son died just a few years into his life, Kisa Gotami went mad with grief. A wise person saw her condition and told her to find the Buddha, who had the medicine she needed. Kisa Gotami went to the Buddha, and asked him to give her the medicine that would restore her dead child to life. The Buddha told her to go out and find a mustard seed from a house where nobody had died. Kisa Gotami was heartened, and began her search, going door to door. Everyone was willing to give her a mustard seed, but every household she encountered had seen at least one death. She understood why the Buddha had sent her on this quest. She returned to the Buddha, who confirmed what she had realized: "There is no house where death does not come." Kisa Gotami asked to be ordained, became a bhikkhuni, and eventually was enlightened.
The Buddha did not fawn all over her, or reassure her, or frantically run around trying to make the sadness of her loss disappear. Pressing her to face and realize that death and loss come to all was more healing for her than any gentle, reassuring words, healing chants, or miracles.
The simple act of sewing, of doing something difficult to do, where there is resistance and where we cannot find the help we need, might be a much greater healing force than any hand-wringing any of us could do.
I know one day my loved ones will die. I think often about my parents, who are getting older. How long will I be able to talk and laugh with them the way I am used to doing? How long will I be able to talk to them at all? I will be devastated when they die. But when they do, I would rather keep the company of those who wouldn't act as if some remarkable tragedy had just occurred, but the ones who would acknowledge, "Yes, this is always how it is." I would think that sewing... or any other simple activity... would have greater power to connect us with the intimacy of what is. I would be grateful to the person who handed me the broom and said, "Sweep."