Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag | Page 79

Death’s one universal thread is its mystery. When one of my oldest friends, John, was dying, he had a conversation with someone I could not see. I said, "Who are you talking to, John?" He said, "I'm talking to my mom.” I said, "Alice?" He said, "No, my mom.” I said, "Alice was your mom." He said, "No, Alice was my stepmom. My mom died in childbirth. She's telling me that she's waiting for me." Who's to say that John’s conversation was not real? I would never for a moment think that it was an illusion. One can call it dementia. One can call it a hallucination. But this experience transcends medical terms. It's something very sacred and mysterious. In Buddhism, from the day we're born we're preparing to die. Suzuki Roshi said that in his meditation practice of following the breath, he spent an extra moment on the out breath. That was his preparation for death. We will all die on the out breath. Death’s one universal thread is its mystery. Whether we believe there's an afterlife, whether we don't believe there is an afterlife; I have a theology, I don't have a theology; I'm Buddhist, I'm Christian— however we do it, it's still a mystery in that moment. I hope that after all the work I do in meditation and witnessing beautiful peaceful deaths that a beautiful, peaceful death will be my experience. But it may not be. I’ve seen people who die very angry or die in pain. That could be my karma. I like to think that I will be unafraid. Who knows? From a conversation with John Wadsworth SENSEI ROBERT CHODO CAMPBELL co-founded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, which delivers contemplative approaches to care through education, direct service, and meditation practice. He is part of the core faculty for the Buddhist Track in the Master in Pastoral Care and Counseling at NYZCCC’s education partner, New York Theological Seminary, and teaches in the University of Arizona Medical School’s Center for Integrative Medicine’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship. His passion lies in bereavement counseling and advocating for change in the way our healthcare institutions work with the dying; his public programs have introduced thousands to the practices of mindful and compassionate care of the living and dying. WWW.ZENCARE.ORG VOLUME III | 79