I’m sitting on the couch with my mother watching a movie—watching her nod off.
I am here simply to spend time with her, because I am acutely aware that at 90 years of age, her time on this earth is limited.
The movie we are watching is nearing the end. It’s a love story, and in this last scene, the man realizes that the woman he is planning to marry is not the one he wants to marry. So he runs through the streets chasing her taxi before she is gone from his life forever. He’s trying to capture her in time.
As I sit here now, I am struck with a sobering truth: Life is not a simple love story, and time cannot be captured.
I live in a different state than my mother, so I come to visit as often as I can. Her days consist mostly of making meals, reading the newspaper, and watching TV. She doesn’t know how to use the remote control, so she moves through each channel one by one. With over 500 channels to choose from, sitting through this process alongside her can be mind-numbing.
Sitting here with my mother is my futile attempt at capturing time. I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I slow myself down to her pace and practice patience, all in an effort to capture these precious moments.
Suddenly, my heart skips a beat, as I realize I am deluding myself if I imagine her time is any more limited than my own.
When we allow the stark reality of our human mortality into our consciousness, it can shake us awake. Sort of like a swift slap across the face, or a bucket of ice water over our heads. If we are courageous enough to look death in the eye, it can lift us into a tangible experience of being the now— a visceral moment of awareness— the only moment in which we actually exist.
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Like a roulette ball, thoughts of existence ping pong in my mind. What is this experience of life really all about? We read about one consciousness and being one with everything, yet these ideas tend to remain cerebral and feel somehow out of reach. My monkey minds grasps for answers, for an opening in understanding. When the futility of these discursive thoughts finally exhausts me, I surrender to not knowing.
Ahhh, there is it. The sweet spot of surrender. Surrendering to what is.
“You have to give up the whole thing. And each time you give, your vision begins to clear, and there’s less of a filter over your pupils; your hearing begins to clear, and there’s less wax on your eardrums. So you begin to hear and see much better.” ~ Chogam Trungpa Rinpoche
Perhaps the only legitimate answer to the question of life’s mystery is this acceptance—that no matter how much time I spend with my mother—she will die, and I will miss her.
And likewise, no matter how many plans I make, my life and death will still happen.
In the seminal book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, he recommends those on the bodhisattva path begin to “allow a gap, a space in which things may be what they are” :
Surrendering does not involve preparing for a soft landing; it means just landing on hard, ordinary ground, on rocky, wild countryside. Once we open ourselves, then we land on what is.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
So here I sit—with this uncomfortable truth of what is. With tears on the rim of my eyes, somehow unable to cry. I accept that I am still holding onto something, still grasping, not ready to let go.
I hold tight, because if I truly let go, there would be no attachment to the outcome, no attachment to my mother’s warm, soft hands—hands that held me from my first day of life—hands that represent the truest love I’ve known.
As I accept what is, I also accept this moment of attachment. And I hold on, for life is dear.
Author: Roseann Pascale
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own