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Lions Roar : September 2019
I walked back in to her empty bed- room and looked around. A thin film of dust had already settled over the floor. I am going to turn this into a beautiful meditation room. It is all I can do: turn everything that comes into love and awakening. I will be an alchemist, turning loss into awakening and love. I will make her little nursery into a shrine to love, to beauty, to the fragility and beauty of life. I will turn my heart into a beehive, making honey from all those dead flowers. Three weeks after Sierra died, I did yoga on our patio again. Above my mat, two wren tits were pecking in the bird- feeder hung in the branches of our apple tree. A hummingbird darted in and out of the bottlebrush. I made my way slowly through the poses, as if I were walking through an earthquake-damaged house, lovingly assessing the damage. Afterward I lay on my back in corpse pose, watching a blue jay spray a shower of seeds to the ground. Looking at the beauty around me, I felt as if I were picnicking on the edge of an abyss into which every now and then someone I loved would silently tumble. Lying there, I saw that I had two pos- sible responses to Sierra’s death. One was to contract in terror, to try to cling more closely to what is precious, wrap my hand tight around it, never let it go. An ultimately futile gesture, since it would all inevitably slip away. The other response would be to cher- ish what was precious breath by breath, with an open hand, knowing it could be snatched away at any moment and that it would ultimately be gone forever. To cherish each moment, knowing that every day is a gift and a blessing, that it may be the last. The yogis had it right: The world is impermanent. But the world is also a sacred blessing. To hold both of those truths in our hearts at the same time is the razor’s edge of practice. Yes, there is tremendous grief in Sierra’s loss. I will never stop missing her; I will carry her in my heart for the rest of my life. But despite all the sorrow, what I have ultimately been left with is a sense of joy, of the precious miracle of incarnation. Of the way love is not bound by time and space. Of how the value of a life has nothing to do with how long it lasts. And of how the rippling effect of one life goes on and on, long after a person is gone. Sierra is not with me in her physi- cal form, and I am so sorry. I miss her deeply. But she is definitely still here. She was there in the way her dad and I wrapped our arms around each other in the night or the way one of us would say “Drive carefully” as the other left on an errand. She is with me in the way my heart softens when I see someone suffer. I see her in everything delicate and pre- cious: a baby quail, the broken shell of a snail, a hummingbird flitting through the spray of a garden hose. And although I would give back all these lessons in a second to have Sierra with me in physical form again, I see that what she has left is a real and lasting legacy. And ultimately, it’s the only way any of us live on: in the way the world is different for our having been here. We did convert Sierra’s nursery into a meditation room. In the corner I hung a mobile of paper cranes made by three of her cousins to commemorate her death. I set up a little altar covered in Indian silk, with the statue of Kuan Yin and an incense burner made from the urn we used to hold her ashes. On the altar, in a white frame painted with morning glo- ries, I placed Sierra’s tiny, delicate foot- prints: tracks in purple ink on a piece of paper, already starting to fade. ♦ naturaldha rm afellowshipBUDDHISM E MBODIED LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 79