I wanted to write something about my mother.
Because I think of her on Mother’s Day.
Because I wonder if she would be proud of me.
It’s been 15 years since she died of cancer, since I became an orphan.
I was 19.
It’s true that 19 is technically adulthood, but I don’t think most people are ready to grow up at 19. Certainly not in my generation.
I had to be the one to take care of my mother at the end of her life. My father had died three years earlier. My brother, eight years older than me, was already out of the house with a family of his own. So, I had to take care of my sick mother and then I was alone.
Things happen. A lot of people have worse childhoods than mine. Some people have parents who mistreat them. I didn’t.
My parents were great.
I didn’t handle it well when dad died my first year of high school (who would?) and then I didn’t handle it well when mom died.
I do believe that tragedy has shaped me into a more compassionate person, though.
And it led me to Buddhism. The death of my mother coincided with a World Religions class that I took in college. I learned about the Buddha’s journey to overcome suffering and impermanence and a little later that journey became my own. I resisted at first, but in the end it was a path I was compelled to follow.
One of my favorite Zen teachers lost his parents too. Zen Master Dogen lost his father when he was two and his mother when he was seven. Experiencing these horrible tragedies led him to contemplate the meaning of suffering and impermanence. He experienced the suffering that life is full of at an earlier age than most people.
On her deathbed Dogen’s mother told him to always be kind to others.
On her deathbed my mother told me the same thing.
Everyone loses the people they love.
The poet Charles Bukowski said, “We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”
That’s important, I think. If we realize that we’re all suffering and dying together, why the hell aren’t we nice to each other? How can we be anything but compassionate and loving to one another? Even one who is your enemy is going to experience terrible tragedies.
We are all love. And we should all act like it and just be nice to each other.
Happy Mother’s Day.
If your mother is alive, give her an extra hug for me.
If she’s gone, let’s mourn together.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Flickr Commons