Author: Rukmini Walker
My family and I were just visiting my mother, Edith, in Boca Raton, Florida to celebrate her 90th Birthday. As we honored her and celebrated her life, she declared that 90 is too old and that people shouldn’t really live that long. Gaura Vani tried to bless her by saying: “May you live as long as you like!” She responded by saying, “Tomorrow, I’m ready to go tomorrow”.
Edith was born in 1928 and she’s fond of saying that she ushered in the Great Depression. These days she is depressed, seeing the declining days and moments of her life. She’s not hearing well, she’s not walking well, although her mind is clear and sharp. She loves her children, although each of us has caused her grief in different ways at different times. She is proud of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has many gifts, but she lacks the gift of faith.
In difficult times, the gift of even a mustard seed of faith is a compass, a light, a treasure.
As we enter the shadowlands of old age, what a treasure to know that this declining mechanism of my body is not all there is to me.
As the Gita says:
Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.
(BG 2. 17)
Yesterday, my Mom said to me that now she needs another body. I remember my husband’s mother saying the same thing to us at one point before she died. Yes, at one point we have to take off our old coat and travel…
But our mental desires and attachments carry us to our next destinations. Where is my solace? Where do I place the love of my heart? What have I cultivated in this very short life? Only deep spiritual treasures ferry with us on our journey beyond this body.
Recently, my friend Joe asked me for advice. His beloved step-father, a psychologist who had spent his life working for justice and civil rights was on his deathbed. They are Catholics, though more fond of liberation theology than the institution. This man raised two children of his own, then Joe and his six siblings after he met their mother, Mary Ann, after the sudden departure of their father had left her shocked and broken.
Joe asked me what should he do for them now? Now his mother sat beside her husband, wondering how to help this man who had given his life to giving shelter to so many. His mind had left him, but there he was- the jivatma, still hearing, still present.
I suggested that she read him the Psalms, and in the background play Gregorian chant, and, if possible, sprinkle holy water around him and around the room. Try to create a sacred space from which his soul could depart and fly upward to a higher destination. Joe told me later that everyone who entered the room was uplifted by the sanctity of the atmosphere.
So, why not try to uplift our consciousness as best we can now? Awareness, gratitude is presence in the now. For this very breath I am breathing now, for this Holy Name I can call out now. Why not try to live in sacred space now, since we can’t know where or when our death will find us?