“This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.” ~ Buddha
My dearest E.,
Although you are young and tender of age, you will soon understand that our lives are impermanent. Beautiful soft milky skin will become wrinkled and loose someday. Thick black hair will unveil itself in 60 years as a delightful shroud of white clouds. But this just isn’t about you. It is about all of us. What you see in me now, wasn’t the way it was 10 years ago. I was younger, prettier, had lively skin and dancing eyes. Now I grow older by the day, feeling my age not only in my bones, but also in my soul. And one day, I will no longer be on God’s beautiful earth in this form.
But that doesn’t make us less beautiful people. Or less human. We must rejoice for the chance at having lived at all.
When I was a child, your grandmother, my mother, tried to make me understand how life is impermanent. All living things will die someday, but that’s not a bad thing. On the contrary, it just means that those living things have evolved into a higher state of being. And perhaps, happiness. She always taught me never to fear death or illness, or losing people I loved. Because it was an inevitable part of life which I must learn to accept. And with acceptance that all things are impermanent, we let go of the grief that binds us when we attach ourselves to our worldly pleasures.
I will confess now that I’m never much good at accepting this impermanence thing. When I was 12, my beloved German Shepherd, Queenie, passed away. When I was 14, my lovable mongrel, Tubby, ran away from home. When I was 28 and before your father and I were married, my dearest grandmother left our world to join the shadows of the next. When I was 29 and expecting you, the then-apple of my eye, in the form of my majestic Rottweiler, Nicky, passed away. All these times, I cried and cried, never for once wanting to accept that people I had loved so dearly were now gone from this world.
But I cried most of all 2 days ago. When your grandfather, my father, my hero, my idol, had a relapse of his heart condition in the hospital. I cried when the cardiologist told me he had a weak heart, and may not be able to withstand the trauma of surgery to remove his appendicitis. I cried when I saw him sleeping in the intensive care unit, drips attached to his hands, breathing labouredly. But I never once cried before him. I loved him, supported him, held his hand throughout this terrible ordeal. I never allowed him to see my tears, or how crushed my life would be without him. I needed to let him know that I was strong and there for him, and even if he were to leave us, that he could count on me to carry on his legacy. He was given another chance, your grandfather, because today, he is resting at home, happy to be with family, weak but recuperating. I cannot be happier. That he was not taken away from me.
This is the impermanence I most hate to face. That someday he will leave. He is not a young man, and has an old, damaged heart. Years ago, I told him that if I could give him my heart for him to continue life heartily, I would gladly do so and face death happily. But now, I have you. And you need me just as much as I need him. So I cannot give him my heart even if I wanted to. I cannot give him my heart because he will never hear of it, anyway.
His light brush with the danger of death looming was a horrible one for me. Although it has passed for now, and things are looking up and the sun is shining, that terrible day will come someday. I cannot ever be prepared for it.
Hence, your lesson, E.? What do you glean from this?
That it is ok not to want to accept the state of impermanence of things, so long as you understand this to be the way of the world. That it just is. That it is ok to be human and cry, and to drown in your feelings, if that will help you. That it is ok to tell someone you love them every single day.
That even if we lose someone we love on this Earth, we never really do lose them at all in our hearts. And that is the truth.