Art of Dying Volume One - Page 7

“ What's incredible about working with dying people is that they teach you death happens a million different ways. KOSHIN PALEY ELLISON The reality of birth and death is that everything arises and passes away. One of the reasons why I  love the Zen practice is that it is deeply focused upon the birth and death in each moment. That this moment will never happen again. And so the only thing that makes sense is love and tenderness and absolute attention— which to me is the intimate understanding that, as we leave the house and look into the eyes of our loved ones; and look into the eyes of our neighbors and  baristas; that that moment will never be repeated. There is a famous Zen proverb, ‘Ichi-go, ichi-e’ which means,  ‘one moment, one chance’— that’s it! To me, it’s incredibly enlivening and lively to allow that more and more. What’s incredible about working with dying people is that they teach you death happens a million different ways.    And  of course  it should.  It’s just the way it is.  The stars in the night sky.  The diversity of the earth itself, so of course the same with dying, My wish is that people can die in the way that they feel moved to. One woman took care of her parents who both had long chronic illnesses of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s until they died. She felt such a relief that her life was beginning again at 40. Two months later, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Her husband couldn’t deal with it. In fact, he didn’t visit her in the hospital.  She was so enraged and she had never been able to be enraged. People on her floor were scared of her because she was so angry. What she was so angry about was that she couldn’t believe that this was happening. She had never expected this to happen. She felt that her life was supposed to start anew!   Instead, she died sitting up in bed with her fists in the air and it was glorious because it was truly her expression of what was really intimate and what she was never able to experience while she was healthy. Something new came through. To  me,  that was a sacred experience. Kind of like Job raising his fists against God. That anger needs to be heard and experienced and honored. How few of us are that fearless to truly be in what’s actually real. It’s so rare. There was this defiant rage. And it was so beautiful. It was exquisite. VOLUME I | 7