Four weeks ago today, my mother-in-law passed away mercifully in her sleep. She was in hospice care for 10 months, and she received inpatient care for the last 2 months of her life. She was 88, and was one of the kindest, most selfless women I have ever had the opportunity to meet. I was very lucky to have her for a mother-in-law.
For my husband and I, this is our first major loss. It really hurts. However, we are comforted by friends and family. I also receive comfort from a quote by Albert Einstein, who, as the story is told, was responding to a letter written to him by a Rabbi, asking his assistance in helping his daughter cope with the loss of her sister.
"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."
This quote reminds me of the law of impermanence, but also the peace that can be found in being truly present, where we can experience these feelings of connectedness. At the wake, the funeral, and days that followed, I felt the pain. I tried really hard to stay present, and avoid the things I typically do to avoid pain (eat chocolate, google on my laptop, obsess about work-related issues). During those moments that I could actually be “with” the pain, I tried to apply the concept of “Beginner’s Mind”, by trying to experience the pain as though I’ve never experienced it before. When doing so, I sensed something in those moments that I had never experienced before. I can only describe it as a “sweetness” in the sharing of the painful experience with my family. I felt so much more connected with them, and continue to feel it today. What a wonderful gift for my mother-in-law to give me. I hope I will remember what serenity lies in any future painful experience, when I choose to be present.