The Lord Provideth, The Lord Taketh Away
As My mom lies in the hospice, slowly fading away, I clean her kitchen of years of her smoking habit (which has brought her to this point by the law of cause and effect). She smoked while leaning on one spot on the kitchen counter, resulting in the discoloring of that cabinet into a sickly, slimy, yucky yellow brown color. Just imagine how her lungs look! I have to scrub it repeatedly, and then I open the cabinet doors to find discolored dishes. I have a lot of work to do just to make her house livable.
I had no idea that she was so diminished in capacity till a few months ago, and now I am seeing it first hand. There are cobwebs and thick dust throughout the house as her cleaning lady only moved around the dust and must not have looked up to see the spider webs…..it is a long story, but my mom didn’t want anyone else to clean….I guess she was the typical stereotype of an old cranky person.
Her husband liked it here (which is why they moved from her beloved San Francisco) and then when he died she couldn’t imagine moving. She kept all the blinds pulled down and didn’t like to see the sun. After 32 years of desert living and 120 degree summers, she had her fill of the sun. Often she would lament, “It’s sunning again”. I understand she was depressed. Our attitude is so powerful that it colors our whole view of life. I see that this is an incredibly beautiful place, though being the desert, it is very severe as well as — “hotter than hell”. She couldn’t appreciate the beauty. This is another lesson for all of us. What does our attitude toward life or people causes us to miss?
Karma is such a strange thing. People tend to think they are a clean slate and we are free to choose their conditions, but from our perspective in this life, it might be more correct to say that our circumstances choose us according to our past actions. Therefore, karma is not fatalism since fate isn’t capricious or accidental. Why? Because we are the cause of what fortune or misfortune comes our way, through God’s power or arrangement as the super or Supreme cause, or the overseer and perimeter. Nothing moves without his will, yet he doesn’t interfere with our minute independence. He allows us—gives us the facilities—to go to heaven or hell, even though it isn’t his desire.
It is an interesting topic, since when things go wrong in people’s lives they tend to blame God. I just met a man yesterday who believed in God until his wife died, and then he became angry at God for “allowing” this to happen. Here is an example of how our ignorance of the laws of nature brings about our suffering. He has been bitter for years, even thought he knows it isn’t healthy for him! It is so contradictory to not believe in God, yet being angry at him! Just a simple understanding of karma is would be so helpful. I find it fascinating that my mom sometimes says in her pain, “What did I do wrong for this to be happening”? Although a fierce agnostic, she seems to understand on some level the existence of cause and affect. If people can understand this point, it also posits a Supreme law maker and sustainer.
Although consciously we have forgotten our past actions, Krishna as the Supersoul gives us our just due, with the hope that we will turn toward him, and become free from the miserable dream we have created for our self in the land of duality: birth and death, happiness and distress, good and bad, up, down and in-between. We have all heard it before, but have we realized it, and do we act upon this? That is the test.
I am also throwing away years of old magazines and old food and spices. I am not ready to do a full cleaning as I want to wait till my mom passes on, though I get rid of the obvious. My mom—like me—is a “collector” and has amassed a lot of useless stuff, yet even if she were to miraculously return home, she wouldn’t really miss anything.
A person is their faith and attachments and a significant amount of a person’s psychic energy is invested into their house. So, as she physically and mentally winds down I am preparing to wind down her home and possessions. At some point we’ll put her house on the market, deciding whether to invest in fixing it up, or to sell it as is, or on an auction.
I can speak about the impermanence of our body and material things in general, yet I have never been tested with a terminal family member, remaining with them through their stages of dying, and also having to take care of and distribute their former possessions. I have to admit that at this point it still seems very strange—surreal even.
My father died 25 years ago, but that was a sudden death by his own hand. While I felt very bad that he was so miserable to go to this kind of extreme and that I couldn’t help him, we were not that close. At the same time I also wasn’t very in tune with my feelings as I am now. I have embarked on a slow process of healing, including learning to be present in the moment with my feelings—at least quite a bit more so then before. We are meant to feel to the highest extent, yet as a by-product of our spirituality, not due to material attachment.
Having spiritual knowledge is so helpful in dealing with such intensities as birth, death, old age and disease, yet we have to also be OK with where we are on the spiritual map. My tears and sadness for my mom are mixed, both as a son and as a devotee. So be it! We have to be honest with ourselves and others, while we pray to make spiritual progress.
After all, we are meant to aspire to be advanced devotees who feel the unhappiness and distress of others as their own out of natural compassion. We are not supposed to use the Krishna conscious philosophy to be callous to other people’s suffering. Neither should we pretend to be advanced, or loose ourselves, being overcome by lamentation and worldly sorrow. We have to be balanced, which will be determined by our level of advancement or spiritual eligibility. One person's food is another person poison.