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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 41 trating on the soft, sweet frosting, the chewy nuttiness. Back in the non-retreat world, I never just eat; I’m in too much of a hurry for that. I read at the same time, or else I talk or tidy the kitchen. This slowed down life feels a lot better. It tastes better too. “The grain of corn has not died,” Thay continues. “You can no longer see the grain of corn, but you know that it has not died. If it had died, there would be no plant of corn. You cannot take the grain of corn out of the plant of corn. “We are the continuation of our father and our mother, like the plant of corn is the continuation of the seed of corn,” Thay told the children. “In the beginning, every one of us was much smaller even than the seed of corn. But we don’t remember, so we need a friend in the dharma to remind us that we were once this very tiny seed in our mother’s womb—half of the seed from our father and the other half from our mother. Your father is in every cell of your body; your mother is in every cell of your body. So when your father dies, he doesn’t really die. He lives on in you, and you bring him into the future.” IN OCTOBER 2 0 0 8 , I had just fallen asleep at my grandmoth- er’s house when my aunt Peggy shook me awake. “No,” I said, sitting bolt upright. “Yes,” she said. “Quick.” I was already dressed, so I threw off the covers and ran down the dark stairs after her. But I didn’t understand: If yes, why this rush? Wasn’t it over? Didn’t death look like falling into sleep? I imagined the transition being like a kite disappearing into the sky. The kite would go higher and higher—deeper and deeper into dreams—then the cord tying it to earth would release, all the kite colors peacefully swallowed up in blue. But no kites, no open sky—in the TV room turned hospice, my father was gasping, struggling to find air for his body swollen with cancer. There were five women gathered on and around his hos- pital bed—me, my two aunts, my grandmother, and my father’s third wife—and each of us was shouting last minute messages to him. “Let go, Stephen,” my aunt Valerie urged, making it sound like “push” in a delivery room. “There’s nothing to worry about here.” The gasps got further and further apart and his eyes glazed. Aunt Peggy checked his pulse. “He’s gone,” she said. Total relaxation with Sister Chan Khong “Your father is in every cell of your body,” Thay said. “He lives on in you, and you bring him into the future.” PHOTOSBYANDREAMILLER