Thich Nhat Hanh and Interbeing

My friend’s grandmother is ninety-eight years old, and is embarking on her journey out of life. Watching and wondering what it will be like when she’s gone is heart-breaking. I remember she once asked, semi-rhetorically, why she was losing her eyesight, her hearing, and nerve sensitivity all at once. My friend replied, it was probably her body preparing for the afterlife. I would not have been able to answer as eloquently, and his answer reminded me how marvelously slow the transition between living and not-living can be. For some it is quick, even instant, but for others it is like the process of growing up in reverse. Do dying people ever feel their energy leaving their body to turn in a new direction? Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom in No Death, No Fear answers many questions one might have about living and not-living.

Thich Nhat Hanh describes inter-being as the way in which every thing and every person contain the same matter as the stars. Matter turns into different states over time, and in this progression one might draw the conclusion that matter contains the potential for all states at once. One can see the flame in a match, or the raindrop in a cloud.

When I look at my friend’s grandmother, I see the sun, clouds, raindrops, plants, animals, trees, and future beings. Over time the energy of her body will dissipate and rejoin the dance of transformation into new life. In this way she does not appear to die at all, only change. The energy and matter of her body will change into something else. Death, or even absence don’t happen through this lens.

When she isn’t living, I will miss her dry humor, and how much she adored animals. I’ll hear her voice saying “Darlin’,” and “Dear.”  When I mourn her eventual death, remembering the lessons in this book will hopefully allow me to celebrate her life and celebrate her transitional state. I’ll remember to look for her in the clouds and in nature when I miss her the most. That is where she will found.

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