October 2005

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day of the dead

Posted by Clarity on 31 Oct 2005 | Tagged as: Personal

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tomorrow is Day of the Dead (sheesh, sounds like a horror movie title) here in Slovenia and I have to say it’s not my favorite - hmm, holiday? celebration? none of the words seem to fit. I really like the idea of at least once a year confronting our own mortality and remembering those that are not among us anymore. However, as usually seems to be the case in this setting sun world, which Trungpa Rinpoche described as the one that would do anything to ward off death, what usually happens is quite far from it. I don’t think I remember even one Day of the Dead where in the family we would sit down and actually talked about those that died, remembered them, keep them in our hearts. No, we would worry how to prepare the grave, what flowers to put where, and just generally keep extremely busy. We’d dutifully go to the ceremony to the little graveyard, not because we’d liked it or it was meaningful, but because it was the thing to do. People would wonder if you didn’t show up. Or if your flowers or candles were not up to the latest fashion.
So, tomorrow we will go again, at least this time not for the horrible ceremony (imagine wailing songs, interspersed with bad poetry and more somber songs, stuff from the local priest that is the same every year, and then throw in some sad war songs - no kidding). But as I write this, I realize, well, it’s really up to me how I take this.
Perhaps I can use it to remember those who died, perhaps on the way to the graveyard I can start a conversation with my mum about it. Though she hates anything connected with death, she’s actually quite terrified of it. She thinks it will draw death nearer if we talk about it.
It is hard for me to think about it too. Death has been one of the hardest contemplations for me. And here, on the graveyard, it is not just about death, but also about my relationship with those that died.
My father, who died when I was 8. I used to completely ignore his existance, pain being too strong to face. Then I used to hate him, thinking I could never forgive him for his drinking and what it did to our family. Now I don’t know. There are times when I feel I understand him somewhat. And I wish him well wherever he is now. There are times when I wish we’d spend more time together, where I could have a father and he could have a son. I miss him.
My grandmother who loved me dearly and was loved dearly by me. Towards the end of her life I was the only thing that was left for her. I remember her gray hair and elderly gentle hands. How many times I would hold those hands in mine, feel their warmth and their love. I miss her stories and I miss her love. I miss telling her of my travels, how her eyes would lit up listening to me, traveling with me to distant places that I visited. And how then she would start including all those people in her prayers. Before my travels she’d tell me, you know, now when I pray, I pray for you and your mother, I ask God to keep you safe. Then after a while, she’d say, now I also pray every day for the Tibetan people and the Indians. And later, after telling her of my life in the Vietnamese monastery, she’d start including Vietnamese refugees as well.
And then one day when I would visit, she’d say, you know, now I pray for you, and your mother, and the Tibetans and Vietnamese and Indians, and then I pray for all the sick people in the world, and all the hungry people and all in need.
I was just smiling at her. She used to be a very bitter woman, she’d complain a lot, and so enemies everywhere. She didn’t get along with many people, and was in fights with most of her neighbours. Yet, when she was telling me this, a doorbell would ring, and a neighbours kid would come in asking if she needs anything from the store.
Then half an hour later another naighbour would come, asking if she needs her trash taken out. I was completely amazed.
When she died, on her funeral, I did something that is rarely done here. In fact, people tried to stop me from doing it, of course in the name of that they’re taking care of me. After some guy I did not know read a eulogy for her, that was so negative, all about the things that went wrong in her life, how she was lonely, had noone, blah blah blah. I was so angry, I could hardly contain myself not to get up to him and punch him in the face.
Instead, I went up to the microphone and told everyone of her love for so many beings. I told them of my love for her, and I still remember the church walls echoing the words ” I love you, grandmother” again and again.
I miss you.
The and there was grandmother’s sister, who died very recently. She had such a bitter life, at the end, bitterness would all that she could see. It was so painful to see that, to see the walls around her so strong, hardly anything came through. Her eyes would lit up though, whenever I came to visit. I would hug her and kiss her on the cheek and I would hold her hands all the time while I was there. I love you and miss you. I wish I would visit more often. I still remember last time I saw her. I somehow knew it was the last time. She could barely speak, and she would go in and out of lucidity. I’d just sit on her hospital bed and hold her hands. At one point she would pull me towards her, so my head was on her chest and she would just cry and cry and cry. My mother tried to comfort her. Why couldn’t she just let her cry? That was what she had left, can’t she have even that? I miss you and wish you well.
And then there’s a death that is still so raw and painful I can’t even talk about it. I don’t know if or when I will be able to.
But I think of you often. words are completely inadequate here. I am sorry and I wish you well.

it’s a broken-hearted world we have, you know…

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