Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will gather for a Night of Remembrance to honor loved ones who have passed away. It is a time to celebrate, to share, to grieve, and to look more deeply into our inter-beingness. In the note below, Mary Beth Hatem, who originated the idea for a Night of Remembrance, writes about what the evening has come to mean to her:
Four years ago, when I first thought about a special Still Water Remembrance event, I was motivated by wanting to mark my Dad’s passing and at the same time wanting to honor and deepen my connection to the Sangha.
Incorporating Thich Nhat Hahn’s teachings into my own grieving and the beautiful gestures of many Still Water brothers and sisters were somehow not enough. I felt the lack of my Sangha and representation of my own belief system as I moved through the rituals set out by my parents’ church.
It’s been a surprise to me to realize how important this day is every year — an opportunity to check in on my own relationships with all who are dear to me.
Four years out from the loss of my dad and mom, my memories of their last days are less sharp and persistent. While the memories fade, my sense of their presence in my life grows. When I become quiet enough, they walk with me. It’s as if death and loss are the Dharma fieldwork component of the life skills course that formal practice provides. Interbeing, impermanence–the visceral experience of these great truths–this is the learning that happens when we experience the death of loved ones.
The intention for our Night of Remembrance is to invite those among us who are grieving, especially those grieving fresh losses, to share from their hearts. What would we like the community to know or understand? What are we learning from our grief? What is the legacy of those we carry most tenderly, most raggedly in our hearts?
We are also invited to bring a photo or a memento of someone whose loss feels especially alive at this moment to place on our altar. Flowers — perhaps a stem or two — and candles would be appreciated as well.
An excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Death, No Fear and The Contemplation on No-Coming, No-Going are below.
Finding a Lost Love One
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from No Death, No Fear.
When I lost my mother I suffered a lot. When we are only seven or eight years old it is difficult to think that one day we will lose our mother. Eventually we grow up and we all lose our mothers, but if you know how to practice, when the time comes for the separation you will not suffer too much. You will very quickly realize that your mother is always alive within you.
The day my mother died, I wrote in my journal, "A serious misfortune of my life has arrived." I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautifUl, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.
l opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants. I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet … wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine alone but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. These feet that I saw as "my" feet were actually "our" feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.
From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand. feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.
Contemplation of No-Coming, No-Going
from the Ceremony for the Deceased in Chanting from the Heart
This body is not me,
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
Manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today,
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.