January 10, 2014

Last night, around 11:30, we received the phone call telling us that my mother-in law had died. It came in the midst of calls back and forth around the country, brothers, sisters, and a granddaughter trying to decide who should travel to Florida and when. We had known that she was dying. Was there time to reach her to say good-bye?

When others around me would speak of their in-laws, I always felt fortunate. My mother-in-law was a positive, straight-forward woman who raised four children, among them my kind and gentle husband. She was an easy woman. Little disturbed her. The smallest kind gesture pleased her and brought expressions of gratitude. She was generous and offered the greatest gift. She was a woman who let people be themselves. After more than 40 years of Sunday visits, barbecues, Thanksgivings, Christmases, I do not yet believe that I will not see her again.

In the past two weeks this is the second close relationship that has ended. When we begin Zen practice ,we plunge into a teaching of endlessness, no birth and no death. At first the truth of endlessness is hard to believe. Skeptical, we receive the teachings and simply move on with the practice of zazen. We barely notice when the shift occurs and we know that the teaching is true. It is our ordinary daily life that offers the opportunity to know with more and more confidence.

Through even the most bitter arguments with friends and loved ones, I have always assumed reconciliation was not only possible, but inevitable. Women friends are dear to me. However, this week I finally accepted that, sadly, a dear friend and I would probably never speak again. My mother-in-law and I, who never spoke a harsh or angry word to each other, will never speak again.

Missing both women will last a long while. The endlessness of life, the reality of no birth/no death includes the finality of my mother-in-law’s death and the finality of ┬áparting from my friend. It includes the reality of no longer seeing their faces or hearing the their voices. Living the spaciousness of life includes the realities of change in bodily forms and the consequences of bodily actions.

Things are as they are. It is so simple and it is endless. It seems that for me it will take a long, long while to know the interpenetration of emptiness and form, of endlessness and good-bye.

“Since originally the Buddha Way goes beyond abundance and scarcity, there are birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet, though it is like this, simply, flowers fall amid our longing and weeds spring up amid our antipathy.” ~from Shobogenzo Genjokoan Master Dogen