Accepting Death and the New Reality

Buddhist saying: “Death is the mirror in which your life is reflected.”

I haven’t written anything for a while or done anything creative since my father passed away in the summer. This month I’m slowly pulling myself together, working through a writing course and speaking at a conference. Doing little things to stop my brain from going crazy with grief.

Since I live in North America and grew up in a safe environment I have never really experienced much death. The death of a few friends over the years did impact me, however, the death of a parent is a totally different thing. I work in healthcare which is a double edged sword because I know where all the resources are to get help, but when the worst outcome happens, I find myself feeling responsible for this failure. Rationally, I know not all patients make it through the healthcare system because people do get sick and don’t survive. Stats don’t help when the situation is personal.

It is inevitable that we all die. I know this. But when a parent dies, you’ve lost your home, your source of wisdom (which you only listen to half the time!) and a person who loves you unconditionally no matter how many times you screw up. This event totally destroyed me and my heart shattered.

People who have lost their parent(s) approach me and we have a connection since we are living in a new reality which we do not want to live in, yet we have no choice. As a parent myself, I know that if I go, I would want my child to be happy and free of sadness. However, at the moment I find it very difficult to feel any joy because I have survivor and filial guilt. I know I am drowning in pain. I know I am majorly depressed and have PTSD. I am getting professional help. It’s been a slow climb uphill to patch together pieces of my heart and to survive minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

One thing that has really helped are Buddhist Dharma talks by a monk called Ajahn Brahm. The Buddhists really take a positive spin on things. Instead of the concept of the body being an enemy as you age, the Buddhists consider death as a return to nature. Ajahn Brahm compares the life of his father (which he only knew for 16 years) to a great concert in which he was grateful to have attended the performance. I recommend listening to this monk as he imparts a lot of wisdom about living life to its fullest and how to handle difficult situations.

A friend told me that we have perhaps 40 good years to use between the age of 30 and 70, when we are mature enough to realize that we have to pull our crap together and really live before we start getting sick/die. Also, my Chinese doctor told me that I must do good before I die. To do good only for oneself is being selfish. So one must do good for oneself and others in order to make this world a better place.

I don’t know when death will be at my doorstep. So I will use my time to create more stories which I hope will make a dent in this big world and will carry on the legacy of my father by taking care of my family. Nothing was more important than family to him. He sacrificed everything for us and I have to learn, grow and do good from the experience of his death. If you have parents that are still here, please tell them you love them. Because life is precious, fleeting and unpredictable, but death is a certainty we will all face one day.

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