Afterlife

May 10, 2012


A friend of mine passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer. Her biggest concern was for her two young sons, young men in their early twenties. This is understandable. However, sometimes a mother can guide her sons far better in death than in life.

I know it was the case in my life. I was twenty-five when my mother passed. Carefree and oblivious to the fact that I was unprepared for life. Then mother had a stroke, and then another, a total of four within six months. The last one incapacitated her and she was unconscious most of the time. We were advised that there was nothing more the medical profession could her. They would make her as comfortable as possible while nature took its course. I resolved to remain by her bedside as I did not want her to pass alone.

These sons did exactly the same for their mother.  Without sleep or food, they found the inner strength to keep vigil. The sight of them brought back memories of that strange but transformative time of my life. At twenty-five I took life for granted, never questioned what it was. The fact of seeing the life slowly and systematically drain from my mother’s body made me distrust everything I had believed or assumed. I realized I had no answers. I knew nothing. I do not still have the answers, but I feel the act of questioning for all these years has been of benefit.

What these boys do not yet realize, as I had not in the days and months after her death, was that a mother does not stop guiding her children, not even in death.

There was her presence, at unexpected moments. Her fragrance, her essence as well her voice. I would hear me tell things. She would sometimes warn me about obstacles, and other times she would comfort me by predicting a favorable outcome. At the time I used to have a long commute to and from work. The bus on the final leg came once every half-hour. I disembarked from the train to find a bus waiting on the platform. Naturally I hurried to board it. But then I heard her whisper to me to let this one go. There would be another one soon, take that one, she said. I obeyed. When the next bus did arrive I found a comfortable window seat and was buried in my thoughts as the bus moved along, when we passed by the bus I had let go. It had broken down and all of its passenger crammed into our bus. Not a life-changing warning, I know, but to me it was sure indication of her loving guidance. There were many more significant incidents later, and I was receptive to her voice because she had proved her presence to me with this small but concrete prediction.

I dreamt of her frequently in the months and years after. Vivid dreams where we had long dialogues. I never doubted that this was she, communicating to me. It made sense to me. She was now a mind without a body. In dreams we are also a mind without a body. It made perfect sense that she was able to make contact me through that state.

I believe, it was she who set on the path of self-inquiry.  It was she who brought the right books and the right teachers into my life.

I anticipate that my friend will similarly guide her two boys.

She was a deeply spiritual woman and a genuinely beautiful soul. This was evident during her final moments. She was in excruciating pain. The nurse woke her while holding a needle in her hand. “Is that for the pain?” my friend asked the nurse.

Yes, replied the nurse.

“Make that two.”

Even in her agony, her composure, her humor, her dignity was in full display. I have seen often with patients that when they are suffering, they revert to default personality. All culture, all social inhibitions, all manners are absent. In her case, her default personality was cultured, was serene, was polite. It was who she was without trying. This is the gift of her years of spiritual awareness.

My life, since my own mother’s death, has been an attempt to be as compassionate and serene as my friend was. For me it is still efforts, and sometimes I fail. My friend was unique in her effortless and it is my hope that in my deathbed I can make that two.

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