Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Heart of Buddha

View from Bald Mountain, Maine
I was out early this morning for a bicycle ride, before the heat and humidity of the day could wilt me.  Climbing up to the ridge that is known as Mosher Hill I could see the western mountain range off in the distance, shimmering in the heat that would be descending later in the day.  This is a respectable climb on my bike, and I was going pretty slow needing to stand on my peddles at times or bounce back down onto my saddle to maintain some kind of momentum so I wouldn't fall over like the tricycle riding comedian of the Laugh-In generation.  It was during this slow climb that Jim came to me.

He does this, pops in at different and unique times, not always associated with an anniversary any more.  Today, as I climbed, I got thinking about his actual passing in Hospice.  We were in Hospice for five days and during this time many people came to our room to sit by Jim, or sit with me on the couches across the room from the bed where Jim lay in his morphine induced coma.  One frequent visitor was our dear friend, Jane Burdick.  Jane is a practicing Buddhist and has been for years.  She became Jim's mentor in his studies and a trusted friend and teacher who helped him find a deeper understanding and appreciation for his own practice.

On one of Jane's visits, after she had sat and meditated beside Jim, she took my hand on her way out and told me to whisper into Jim's ear, "dissolve into the heart of the Buddha".  I thought this was beautiful, and I began to hold this mans hand and, truly believing that hearing is the last thing to go and that Jim was capable of hearing everything, I would whisper into his ear to dissolve into the heart of Buddha.  And then I would kiss that unresponsive hand.

The morning of Jim's passing the night nurse woke me at 3:30 a.m.  She had to shake me pretty hard to get me to wake up.  I had been awake at 2:00 a.m. and all was fine and yet in that hour and a half I fell into a deeper sleep than I may have had over the entire 18 months of Jim's struggle with brain cancer.  Someone had told me this is a phenomena that happens, as though the individual who is passing is able to silence their loved one by putting them into a deep sleep or even to time their passing for when the loved one leaves the room, thus slipping away without the witnessing of that last breath.  I do believe this is what Jim did not only to me but to my good friend, Mary Margaret, who spent her nights at hospice with me. She told me she was also in a very deep sleep even though she had gotten up at 2:30 a.m. to check on Jim.

As this kind nurse woke me she gently whispered, "he's gone" and gave me a hug.  There was an odd feeling of nothingness in me.  I looked at MaryMargaret and said, "what do I do now?"  She suggested I take my time.

Prayer flags, Ladakh India
 I got dressed, called Jim's sisters who were staying at our house during this time and began to pull things together.   The nurse came back in and told me she needed to share with me the experience she had prior to checking on Jim.  She said she was sitting at the computer in the office and heard, "the most unusual, but very beautiful, tinkling bells.  And my first thought was to check on Jim!" (there were many other people in the hospice house at this time, but it was Jim she thought of).

I knew instantly what the tinkling bells were this nurse had heard.   If you have ever held the small, brass, hand cymbals that the Buddhist monks chime during ceremonies you would know the tinkling, but unusual, sound of these bells too.

I began to cry as this nurse squeezed my shoulder and said, "I thought you might want to know this" and left the room.  And thus, I knew that Jim had dissolved into the heart of Buddha.

As I reached the highest point of my climb and traveled along the ridge with that gorgeous view of the mountains I thought ...  now Jim is not only part of the heart of Buddha but he is part of everyone's hearts too.  He is not only part of my heart, but he is in and deeply dissolved into each and every heart of the people who knew and loved  him.  The gold thread of connection now has all of us connected together through and with Jim.

 I knew that Jim wanted me to write this today, wanted me to tell those who will read this to know,  we are all connected by this LOVE.  This LOVE, that is of the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, God, Great Spirit, The Divine ... whatever you want to call it, it is all the same LOVE.  Only humans and their belief systems seek to separate this and alter it to appear different from one another.  But it's not, it is one LOVE, and we are all connected to it.

Loving you all back,

Jim, on the left, in Ladakh India