A dear friend of my family passed away last week. She was admitted to the hospital Thursday afternoon and passed away very early Friday morning. My mother told me that eight hours before she died, she woke with a smile on her face.
I had the most wonderful dream. I had the kindest nurse taking care of me, and he had the most beautiful wings.
As I sat on her couch Wednesday afternoon, a dram of whisky in my raised glass, friends and family toasted her adventurous spirit, the way she lived life fearlessly, and her deep respect and love for her husband.
The next morning, I left my parents’ home and headed back to my own. I instinctively picked up The Bhagavad Gita and started reading:
“There has never been a time when I, or you, or any of these kings and soldiers here did not exist – and there will never be a time when we cease to exist. Physical bodies appear and disappear, but not the Atma (the soul, the life force) that lives within them.
This life force comes and dwells in a body for a while. While therein, it experiences infancy, childhood, youth, and old age, and then, upon death, passes eventually to a new body. Changes such as death pertain to the body, not the Atma. The wise person does not get caught up in the delusion that he or she is this body.” (Hawley,2001)
A few days before she died, as my mother sat with her, she said that she wasn’t afraid of death. And when the time came, she returned her borrowed breath and left her physical body.
We here on earth, mourn when the Atma leaves a physical body. Young or old, fast or slow, we are left with questions and grief and often feelings of anger. Grief is a natural human condition, and it is healthy. Like many emotions, we often suppress the intensity of our grief, putting on a good face.
By giving ourselves permission to weep, to feel pain, to grieve in an emotionally healthy way, we are better able to find peace in the knowledge that the Atma is eternal.
Of course, the loss of a loved one leaves an imprint on us. The memory often generates an immense amount of pain for a very long time. Here in the land of the samscara, we work through this pain until we are able to let it go. Not of the memory, not of the love and tenderness, but of the pain.
It is difficult work, learning how to let ourselves heal.