Life, Death, and Library Books

It feels like I write about death a lot. I suppose it’s because a Lorem Ipsum Life is a bit like dying. I lost everything and everyone I was when I got sick. Dealing with the grief of that ‘death’ is an important part of continuing to live.

This morning I took a wee girl to our community garden to make seed bombs as part of her 7th birthday activities. Next, I went to the library to pick up a book I’ve been awaiting (I will be buying it when it eventually comes out in paperback), hopefully the Author will still be around when I finish it, but it’s not looking good. From the library, I headed directly to a funeral of a family friend. It’s my first Buddhist funeral.

What do all these things have in common? Why write about them on a blog about chronic illness? Grief, attachment, broken promises, clinging, and suffering.

Life

The first time I saw Miss 7, she wasn’t even a people yet. I had taken her mother for an emergency ultrasound scan due to a suspected miscarriage. A few months later, with a lot of fight and plenty of help, she fully arrived on the planet and was promptly filled with tubing and stuck in a box. She had more fighting to do. At 5 1/2 she was back in hospital and filled with tubes again, this time from a respiratory infection (not covid) that barely registered for the rest of us.

She has fought just to be alive from before she was even born. I don’t know which is the cause and which the effect, but that wee girl has such an enthusiasm for living and everything she does, that it’s exhausting just to be around her. She really LIVES at hard as she can, at all times.

It feels like only last week that she saw a cat for the first time and lost her mind over how his ears were on top of his head.

Death

My dad’s friend, and partner of one of his best mates, died suddenly this week of a heart attack. We farewelled her this afternoon.

She was a lot like The Birthday Girl in many ways. Both lived to take care of others; feeding and doting on those around them. They both knew how to enjoy the moment and the people they were with. Both small in size but big in love.

I’m sitting here with a library book that I picked up earlier today. It’s the latest release from my longtime favourite author, someone I got to ‘meet’ in a virtual fashion, through the wonder of the Internet. Today, on the other side of this huge world, he is saying goodbye to those he loves. He is dying, a bit faster than most of us, and a lot faster than I’d like. I wish I had his knack for words and images right now.

I grieve for both of them, and for those they leave behind, like I grieve for the me I lost, and the once-was-Miss-4-years-old who used to put me to bed when I was tired, who is now a very different Miss 7.

Time flies. Before we know it, everything has changed or gone. We often forget to Live our lives while we wander through passing time.

Library books

Over the last 12 months or so, I’ve been learning about Buddhism and studying the Dharma (teachings), and I’ve found it very helpful for dealing with my grief.

The precepts that underpin the dharma are simple: everything changes, there is nothing permanent; every living thing experiences suffering; this suffering comes from our expectation that things will stay as they were; the way to end our suffering is to accept that everything changes.

We fool ourselves with beautiful promises that things will stay the same, or that we can control our lives, and then when we break that impossible to keep promise, we feel pain, despair, and sadness. We promise an imagined future to ourselves, then mourn its loss when it fails to happen. We think we’re mourning the past, but the past is exactly the same as it would have been had the future unfolded the way we wanted.

What this means is that life, and every part of life, is like a library book. It’s not ours to keep. We suffer when we get attached to the idea of having that library book on our shelves. To end suffering, we must accept that the library book must be returned. This also applies to the ‘books’ we don’t enjoy, like sickness, for example.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t love the library books we have, or even keep loving them after they have been returned; quite the contrary. How many of us have a ‘to read’ pile that grows steadily? I have a ‘to read’ bookshelf. I have books on there I’m excited to get to, but I won’t read them until I’ve finished my library book, because my library book will be gone soon. I appreciate its presence all the more for its impending loss.

Life is for living, like books are for reading. Love the moment you are in and recall with fondness the joyful moments of the past.

The dharma is teaching me that I should live whatever version of life I have, even a Lorem ipsum life, with incredible enthusiasm. Live it with a capital L. Live it with a capital I, V, and E while you’re at it.

Embrace and experience every feeling, and every event, no matterhow small, because they are what life is. Appreciate your health, your friends, your food, even your pain.

Savour your grief, because grief reminds us how much we loved – we don’t grieve what we don’t love. Don’t try to squeeze life into boxes of expectations or expect anything to last forever, because we’re all on borrowed time.

I love you, Chris, Jin, and Miss 7, and I will forever feel blessed to have had you in my life.

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