Mala Shop

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Taking Everything Onto the Path

Stupa of Lama Yeshe, Vajrapani, Santa Cruz California   

We're told in Buddhist teachings that the birth and death of beings is like a flash of lightning in the night's sky. Lately this has been more and more apparent to me.

Last month I was on intense retreat in the south of France, where my lama's retreat center, Lerab Ling, is.  About five days into it, unbeknownst to me, my elderly father started having bad back pain and visiting doctors. His condition may have decreased his ability to eat properly and take medicines. By the time we were alerted by a neighbor that he wasn't looking quite right, he was really in trouble.
I don't like to be dramatic, but this is a dramatic story, as are all stories when a parent is growing older and needing help.

My sister and her husband checked in on Dad and found him needing medical treatment. A trip to the ER brought no pain relief, although xrays were taken, showing a disk in his low back out of place.
A few days later my husband visited Dad and found him less coherent and in a great deal of pain.
Family conferences were held and I took  part via WiFi from my mountain in France. It was decided that Dad urgently needed to live with someone, so my sister moved him into my house with my husband, who cared for him as if he were his own father for a week until I returned.

The hard thing was piecing together the puzzle of his sudden worsening of conditions, both mental and physical. I'm still putting things together.

Now he's with my family and all of us, as a team, are taking care of him with tenderness and constant love and attention. The goal is to get him back to a stable, healthy state—but he'll never be able to live again on his own.

The point of writing about this? It affects every aspect of my life and my entire family's life. Obviously, the mala shop is only in half operation during this time. Much as I love making malas and interacting with customers, this isn't the time to focus on it the way I usually do. Now is Dad's time, entirely.

Jeez, the things this man has done for me, my sister, our children, and for strangers. Truly part of the Greatest Generation, he volunteered with Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, homes for developmentally disabled people, and he worked as a criminal attorney for fifty years, not getting paid highly for it, but doing his best to help his clients get the help they needed in life. He also scared the hell out of many of my boyfriends, but those are stories best told elsewhere. (Most 16-21 year old boys who come to date a man's daughter are subject to interrogation and intimidation—it's just their due.) One thing Dad drilled into our heads as children was JFK's famous quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country". That extended to community and neighborhood issues, of course.

The teachings that help me right now are from Lojong - considering the kindness of all beings, putting them first as if they were another "I". Also, knowing that ultimately we are all connected and one, made from the ground of all things, and that we're Buddhas already; this helps. Dzogchen teachings help a lot. And whatever happens, I stay as mindful and present as possible and don't allow my mind to go off into stories that bring fear and anxiety.

This is what it means to me to "Take Everything Onto the Path Towards Enlightenment".

I hope that my writing this may help someone somewhere who's doing elder care or helping another sick and needy to stay strong.



Shirley Dodge Design said...

Your Love - overflowing, each day, not with the usual drama, but with kindness that is so clear, as you write about your Dad. Thank you for your connecting this way with us all with how you see this as taking all onto the path. Prayers and blessings to you and your family and especially to your dear Dad.

roy said...

Dear Laura,

I am very sorry to hear of your Father's suffering. Thank you very much for writing about him.

Thank you also for this powerful teaching on "Taking everything onto the Path."

Lastly - thanks as always for who you are and what you do for this world.

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Palms together - bowing,

- roy.

KristenD said...

Thinking of you a lot today. You will do it and do it well.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I can so relate to what you shared. My year up to this time
was the most painful I have ever experienced and did not like being on strong medication.
Better at this time.
Missed my children at this time
and none near and guess thought
I was not dying...
So relate to you so deeply
and you and your family
are in my prayers...