Dear Beloveds of Ruth
Ruth breathes in and breathes out. Life persists. The mala remains in her left hand. A few moments ago she again lifted the mala so that the beads hung below her hand. Her eyes are open but there is no noticeable response to speech.
There are a million stars in the desert sky. It is cold this morning as the cloudless sky allows the Earth to radiate heat into the vastness of the universe. Cycles, day/night. warm/cold, sleep/wake, birth/death…as the universe manifests itself in polarities.
Each time I make my way from my trailer a few feet from the house to Ruth’s room there is the wondering: “Is she still here. Will I find that she has passed away?” There is no longer any fear. Also no urgency to get there, just in case. A rich acceptance has displaced the fear. There will be a moment in the not distant future when a lifetime of breathing in and breathing out will stop. It will be an ordinary moment. It will simply be a ceasing. With the exception that there will not be an eventual inhale it will appear exactly like the tens of thousands of times Ruth has had a gap in her breathing with sleep apnea.
I have observed as the desire to be present for her “last breath” has subsided. I realized that there was some subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, clinging in that desire. I turn inward and observe that this breath in what I call “my body” also comes and goes. Every breath has a beginning and an ending. Each arises our of nothingness and then disappears.
I am touched by the ordinariness of this dying. As Ruth said so many times:, “Everything is anicca. Everything is change.”
One thing is clear. The person we know as Ruth Denison is dissolving away and soon will vanish from the Earth.
I find the following paragraph by Matt Flickstein clear and comforting.
Everything that arises, disappears; whatever is born, dies. Nothing escapes the cycle of birth and death. It is important for us to directly and experientially realize that there is never a point in time when something “exists” and is not in the process of becoming something other than it was just a moment before. All suffering comes from attachment – trying to hold on to that which is perpetually changing – and all attachment comes from delusion. We need to learn to live in the clarity and space of non-attachment, neither grasping nor pushing anything away. The key is to just be present with what arises from moment to moment, without holding or resisting. At the same time, it is essential not to fall into the trap of denying the relative existence of our psychophysical organism and the world of experience it presents.
It is now 6:20 and the sun in brilliant, blinding orange is rising. Another day of life among he 10,000 things has begun.
PS: When Ruth passes away her body will remain here at Dhamma Dena for a day. She will be moved to the dharma hall. Visitors may come at that time. There will be a ceremony in Yucca Valley within a couple of weeks following her passing. I will provide details as they clarify.