Improvising & Caring

Bee’s mum died on Monday. She was ill with cancer so Bee and Steve have been caring for her in this time of dying. Without belittling the loss, I would say she had a good death – a good death because she lived a good life. She was cared for and loved. She knew the meaning of presence. Her passing was timely.

We couldn’t go to the service, only Steve and Bee attended her body. But love’s ingenuity saw an easy way. Four bhikkhus sitting in a circle at Tisarana. Our beloved Ayyas sitting in front of the shrine at Satisaraniya. Steve, Bee and deceased Geetha in the funeral chapel. Three locations and three phones between us – on speaker mode. We chanted and chatted and spread good-will, love and human-caring between ourselves. Fare thee well Geetha…

I have been told to self-isolate by several people because I’m 73 but our small community is living in isolation already, that seems safe enough. We talk about the pandemic, sharing stories we have read asking each other about our respective families. I will at times put myself in the shoes of a doctor who has to make a decision about who to give and who not to give a ventilator, a solo mum with no work and little food or a political leader who has to make terribly complicated decisions which everyone will critique in hindsight. How would I do under the pressure – probably not so great. And then I multiply that a thousand fold and think of a mum with kids fleeing the war zone in Syria. My mother went through that in the 2nd world war. Perhaps that’s why my thoughts turn to such deeply troubling images. Impossible to imagine. Profoundly humbling when I dwell on it.

But there is also beauty and literature to set a different tone. I have been reading Mary Oliver’s book of essays Upstream. One beautifully crafted piece is a tribute to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

‘All the world is taken in through the eye, to reach the soul, where it becomes more, representative of a realm deeper than appearances: a realm ideal and sublime, the deep stillness that is, whose whole proclamation is the silence and the lack of of material insistence in which, patiently and radiantly, the universe exists.’

* Thank you Mary.

Perhaps Dylan will write us a song of these times – The Ballad of Virus 19

Very best wishes to everyone. May all that is good and wholesome guide and protect you.

   – Ajahn Viradhammo

*”Upstream”, by Mary Oliver Selected Essays