When loved ones die
One Saturday morning in July, 1990 I was awakened at about 7.00am with the telephone ringing. It was my step mother, my fathers wife for twenty five years suddenly talking in my ear. She was telling me a strange story about my father, how he was unable to sleep because of a back pain and had dressed in the middle of the night and gone downstairs to watch television. She had slept again of course and when she went downstairs about fifteen minutes earlier she went into the living room to see how my father was doing.
By this time I had realized where these almost nonsensical words were leading and I waited for the reality of such an early telephone call.
"And your father is dead," came the four words I had accurately anticipated.
I arrived at the house twenty minutes later, embraced my step mother and went alone into the room where my dead father sat in his favourite armchair.
He looked almost as I had seen him on so many Sunday afternoons, dozing after a big lunch, peaceful with one piece of hair hanging down on his forehead. Of course the complexion was different and there was a sense of stillness I had not met before.
Without any reflection or intention (I was completely alone) my hands went together in anjali and I said to the man I admired and loved, "May you be well and happy, and thank you for being a part of my life."
Dhamma training is applicable in every moment and in every situation in life. As our understanding develops there is the natural intuitive recognition that everything we meet has the inherent quality of impermanence. Arriving with this is the realisation of the teaching, 'don't miss the moment'. Life is fleeting and anything can happen without any warning at any time.
When the heart is open we can live peacefully with this reality of life and as a consequence, feel grateful for what we have received, rather than grieve for what we feel we have lost.
Remembering the beautiful times together sharing our moments, rather than empowering the thought that there are no more to come.Life is not personal. It only is what it is, and our suffering and unhappiness only finds its place when we live outside this reality.
One famous master was dying when he heard his disciples outside crying. He asked his attendant what was happening.
"They are crying because you are leaving them," said the attendant.
The master replied, "where do they think I can go?"
The dead never leave us, they are part of our life forever. They are part of who and what we are. Celebrate your time together while you are alive, show the other that you love them, and allow the universe to unfold in its own natural way. This is the way of Dhamma and this is the way of peace.
May all beings be happy
In loving memory of Henry Bowen – Anagarika Dhammachanda,
friend and devoted disciple for more that twenty years.
Died 4thJune 2013.
May he be well and happy
Tuesday, 11th June 2013, was the funeral of my first disciple and close friend Henry Bowen, Anagarika Dhammachanda.
The service was lovely with between 150 and 200 guests attending.
I had been invited by Henry's wife Myriam , as the guest of honour, although it had not occurred to me that this would my place, and I feel priviliged that she and everyone else should treat me so well and with so much respect.
The evening before she and I had made a special ceremony with Susanne, Henry's first wife, outside in the forest in the evening sunshine to remember this person so important in our lives.
The funeral was non religious and presided over by a very pleasant and friendly German lady. There was music (the Waterboys) songs from the small choir that Henry was a part of and a instrumental solo from a mutual friend of ours.
The coffin was very simple which made it beautiful, there was a Buddha statue with insence and candles and a large photo of Henry's huge smiling face. Sitting on top of that was his favorite cap that he wore when he lost his hair as part of his kemotherapy treatment.
During the service there were many references to me and my relationship with Henry and my place in his life. I realised that this was something he had not kept a secret and in fact I was well known before I arrived.
The atmosphere was heavy with sadness and tears were not in short supply from men and women alike.
Soon I was asked to speak, and as my relationship with Henry had never been a sad one, I spoke in a joyful and playful way about our times together and people soon began to laugh again. This was the Henry they knew.
I spoke of his kindness, his generosity and his exhausting enthusiasm for meditation, Dhamma and life. I told stories of our time together in Budh Gaya and how much fun it was to travel on an Indian train with him.
I ended by saying that I had not come to say goodbye to Henry, because he will live forever in my heart. I looked across at the giant photograph of his radiant smiling face and said to the audience, 'look at that face - how could you not love this man? May you be well and happy Henry, and thank you for being a part of my life.'
As the coffin was carried out to the cemetery, people had the opportunity to take a white, heart shaped helium balloon to release into the sunny afternoon sky as Henry's small wasted body was placed in ground. We stood silently as each one of us dropped soil onto the coffin and one young lady, a close friend of Myriam, sang Amazing Grace.
Everything was so elegant and so tasteful, an fitting end for this true disciple of Dhamma and friend of mine for twenty years.
To Henry with boundless love and such fond memories, may you be well and happy forever.
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