I meditate a lot lately.
I find great solace in it, and it clears my head, makes me kinder and more present, less attached to things and people and life itself.
Not that I’m not attached. But the work is to be less attached. I am doing the work.
Doesn’t work so well with people though. There are something called the Five Daily Remembrances in Buddhism. Three of them address this attachment by stating the obvious: I am of the nature to get old. I am of the nature to get sick. I am of the nature to die. Those 3 things are what the Buddha witnessed when he came out of his isolated, rich, secluded life. The reality of it changed him. He recognized all of this as suffering and started on his path to enlightenment, to find a way to ease that suffering.
This is not a treatise on Buddhism
I have a dear friend named Annie. She was old, she was sick, and she died.
I am attached, so I grieve. And I remember.
She made me laugh so hard over the years! Her timing was impeccable and she was so whip smart that her words, though they could sting, were always kinda perfect. She didn’t suffer fools, either gladly or at all, frankly. She sang to my cynical, sarcastic side…a melody I have always enjoyed.
Maybe a little too much.
Her daughter has been my BFF since we were in our 20’s, in theatre together. I am grieving as much for her, for the whole family. I know this shit is hard. And complicated, always.
Oftentimes Annie would be out of town, doing theatre in Denver, Cleveland, New York…wherever, and there would be parties. Crazy “running charades” parties where the whole house and deck would be used by teams. I remember many times thinking that Annie would have liked that game, but I don’t really know.
When she was home and we were invited over she held court. Cigarette in one hand, drink in another. Witty and wise, she had the greatest stories and enjoyed being the center of attention.
Maybe a little too much
Tom loved her and she loved him. We’d go over there and Tom would disappear, sometimes for an hour, longer. Where was he? Always in the room with Annie, at her feet, goading her for stories from her show-biz life. Later, after Tom died and I hung out more with Annie, I’d hear those stories. She’d preface them sometimes with how much Tom liked this one, or that one. She often told me how much she missed him and I was always grateful that she did.
I especially enjoyed the stories of when she was a young girl, and her college stories. Her dad, the military doctor. The constant moving, the people she remembered. War time. Her early acting years, before I knew her. The characters she met over the years; so many and so diverse. They all loved her though. She really had that actor’s sense..she played to the crowd, and she had a lot of fans in her life.
She wrote pages and pages of yellow legal pads, stories of her life. I read through them too. I think she could have written a fascinating book.
She had such funny stories from college and was so snide about some her friends! Mind you this is almost 70 years later! She would repeat herself, but the stories never changed. I could listen to them for days.
We talked about a lot of stuff, Annie and I. Life and death, big concepts. Gossiped. Laughed. I’d stay in her room with her until she’d want a smoke, and then I’d do something else. Neither of us was going anywhere.
I really loved her. I would say she was like a surrogate mom but, no. She wasn’t really motherly. She was her own particular self and that was easy for me to accept and deal with, though certainly more challenging for those closest to her.
In our last conversation we talked for a couple of minutes about death; she knew she was dying.
She talked about a door that closes, that was it, nothing beyond. This was not new to me; we had had discussions like this many times over the years. After a couple minutes she told me, in her inimitable way, that she “didn’t care for this conversation” any longer. Laughing to myself, once again bluntly put in my place, we changed topics and more stories appeared. When it was time for me to go I told her I loved her and she replied that she loved me too. What more could I ask for?
She was a “oner” ( I love that old phrase!) One of a kind, her very own self…not a lot of folks like that in this world, I’m lucky to have had her acquaintance and I know it.
Buddhists don’t believe in an “afterlife”, a heaven. They do believe in karma and the fifth remembrance is that “I am the owner of my Karma”. I said this was not a Buddhist treatise, I do not pretend to understand this concept at all, although I understand and accept the first three completely. I will get old, I will get sick, I will die. We all do.
I don’t really believe in an afterlife either, but am kind of fond of the notion that who actually knows? I mean, until we die it’s all pretty much conjecture, right? But there is a little part of me that hopes for more, mainly so that I can once again see those I loved. And I hope this for Annie too….that she had a surprise. That her parents and husbands and friends were there to greet her, to usher her into her new universe: parallel, reincarnated, or even nothingness.
I keep seeing Tom sitting at her feet, she with a bourbon, he with his scotch…cigarette smoke everywhere, laughs ringing.
Here? There? Anywhere?
I skipped the 4th Buddhist remembrance. It is that “everything will be separated from me that is pleasing.” That is the hardest one to take. That addresses the attachment that we feel to those we love. But what are our choices? Not to love? We are also of the nature (human nature!) to be attached.
Annie pleased me very much, I am bereft at the separation. And I am willing to be bereft when attachments to those I love are broken because I am having this human experience and I am willing to experience it all…..maybe that it owning my Karma?
I accept that I own some pretty good Karma, because I have been so blessed with amazing friends throughout my life.
Annie was a good friend. I am sad and will miss her. But gratitude for having been able to enjoy her company for so long is my overriding feeling. I am very thankful that she was in my life. That her family remains in my life. And that I am willing to be separated, eventually, from all that is pleasing …because that means I have been well and truly pleased.