December 10, 2021

This Thich Nhât Hańh Quote Mended my Shattered Heart after the Death of my Brother.

Dear Brother,

I’ve been dreaming about you lately.

You used to show up in my dreams more often, but somehow, you faded into a distant memory.

I didn’t know you well. We were never close when you were alive. But now I think about you often, wondering why your life ended so much earlier than expected. I miss you. But if you were still here, I probably wouldn’t see you. And would I miss you then?

I saw you in my dream two nights ago. You were standing over the counter in my kitchen, looking down at whatever it was you were chopping on my old, dry hardwood cutting board. I just stared at you from behind. You were wearing a dark green itchy-looking sweater. I gazed at your hunched over shoulders in awe that you were really there. Where have you been?

I stared until three wholehearted words slipped out of my mouth: “I love you,” I said, as tears dripped from my eyelids, knowing you wouldn’t be here much longer.

Your neck slowly turned to the right until our eyes locked and you replied, “I love you, too.”

And that was it. And that was all we ever needed to give each other—love. And it was all that was left in my heart when you departed.

I was wearing a purple and yellow tie-dye T-shirt with a bright sunny headband wrapped all the way around my head when I got the call. I was laying on my yoga mat that was rolled out on the ground in the tiny space between my closet and my twin-sized bed. I still had sweat dripping from my chest when the words of your passing pierced my ears. It felt like an earthquake had struck the cracks in my heart that soon became canyons.

My heart was wide open and throbbing from its newfound softness.

In the days that passed, I filled the empty space in my heart with the wise words of Thich Nhât Hańh in his book, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. It was exactly what I needed. And there was one specific quote from this book that especially guided me through my grief:

“We think that being born means from nothing we become something, from no one we become someone, from nonbeing, we become being. We think that to die means we suddenly go from something to nothing, from someone to no one, from being to nonbeing. But the Buddha said, ‘There is no birth and no death, no being and no nonbeing,’ and he offered us impermanence, nonself, interbeing, and emptiness to discover the true nature of reality.” ~ Thich Nhât Hańh

And because of this knowing—that your presence is still here and always will be—I feel you. And I think about you. And I see you in my dreams to remind you that I love you.

And though you might not be Earthside any longer, you’re still here—playing guitar in the canyons of my heart and the hearts of all those who loved and still love you.

With love,

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