May I finally understand

Nadine's sister on the beach

Nadine Aernouts, originally from Belgium, writes: “My sister died two years ago of cancer when she was sixty years old. I lost my brother years ago when he was just 47 years old. When he died I was totally confused because people always tell you that you have to be strong and go on living. I couldn’t forget the faces of my parents or the faces of my brother’s children who were 4, 9 and 12 years old at the time. His wife was heart-broken because it happened all of the sudden…it was a medical failure.

During those days, when I was thinking about life and death, I remembered having read ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ when I was  younger. I decided to re-read it, and it helped me so much because I saw how Sogyal Rinpoche understood our sadness and grief and especially because he tells us how necessary it is to help and listen to the people who have lost a loved one.

When my sister told me she had cancer, she wanted to be with me for last days of her life. She lived far away, and so when the end came near I went to her home to stay with her. There I had the opportunity to see how she was helped by the doctors and nurses in a special centre for dying people (most of whom were volunteers and people that followed special teachings). I realized they did  such a great service.

Until her final days my sister continued to help a friend of hers who ended up dying a few days before she did. Her dying and death was a very strong experience for me, and it showed me again how important it is to be able to face our reality with love and understanding.

The photo is of my sister walking alone along a beach a few weeks before she died, and here is a poem I wrote after my brother’s death based on a song:

I’d like to die in the sun
Not in an old and filthy bed
With a dark cross above
And yet
People talking, whispering
At the door
Many tears to cry no more

I want to die
on a wide green field
With bees and birds
And flowers real

Death take me by your hand
Here on the cool and marvellous land
Far away from noise and fear
Let I breathe no more
Holding you tight
Guide me
Help me die
As I tried to live
With open heart
Marked by joy and pain of love
The never ending mystery
Of human beings
We pretend to be

I want to die in the light
Small and bright
Shine for a little while
Making you smile
Maybe I haven’t done enough
To complete my circle
Then may I return to heal the wounds
Of those I’ve hurt

May I die in peace
stream away and feel release
Closing my eyes
Holding your hand
Oh, God, may I finally understand.”


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