The practicalities of living and dying

Walking in the street today, I passed a woman pushing a pram which contained a very small human being. It’s called a ‘baby’.  We were all born as ‘babies’ and slowly grow bigger and bigger, taller and taller. We became ‘women’ and’ men’. Eventually we become old and die. That’s the way things are: amazing and inexplicable.

During this time, our brains become ‘minds’ – almost empty at first and then more aware and multi-functional. Most of us develop beliefs which help us to navigate the world we live in. Some people believe that when they die, they will meet old friends and family in a better place. This gives them hope, comfort and consolation. For me this is delusion.

I looked in the mirror today. I looked rather like my aged grandmother, who survived the rigours of the nineteenth century. I’ve survived the rigours of the twentieth century and I have many tales to tell.

I’m ready for death. The Co-Op Funeral service will give me an invisible path to extinction. It’s all sorted.

Our existence is so full of grey areas:

In the street today, I also saw a young man with a severely damaged face. He was blind and his mother was leading him. In the supermarket I met Dennis who never stops bemoaning the mistakes of the government and the dreadful state of things. I heard today that one of my oldest friends has dementia. My sorrow brought me to a standstill. Dougie is confined to a wheelchair, the victim of an accident years ago. He has never-ending pain; he has the love of Hilary and Matthew to keep him sane.

I face this moment, this tiny fraction of time, this non-existent entity. I see my ‘self’.

My life is full of white areas which give me delight and surprise.

A woman in the street interprets my expression as a smile and smiles back.

I look out of the window and see a bush covered in tiny white flowers. I watch it for long minutes swaying in the wind and rain. This beauty brings tears to my eyes.  Now George is passing by. He’s always smiling and positive. He laughs at my jokes.

I still have the immense pleasure of meeting new and old people, music, dance performances, books, art, meditation experiences, perceptions of the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha.

My life is blessed by dear dear John and my inexpressible appreciation of his kindness, his love, his wit, his friendship and his sharing of his life with mine..

Buddhists are no strangers to death. It’s one of our constant companions. The thought of leaving John (and so many others) behind does give me enormous sorrow. But the actual process of becoming extinct doesn’t cause me any difficulty (so long as it’s not too painful). And after all, the end is the end.

If the world is real, then death is real too.


Maurice George