Last week I turned 38 years old. On the eve of my birthday, a sangha friend passed away. Alison Matthews, age 63.
63 is an age generally considered to be on the younger side of someone passing away. 63 is not old age. I am continually reminded about the preciousness of life, especially in the wake of others who have passed on. Earlier today, I was visiting with a hospice patient. During our weekly visits, I’ve taken to bringing a newspaper with me and reading aloud the news. As I was reading the Today In History section I came across this: In 1937, American composer and pianist George Gershwin died at a Los Angeles hospital of a brain tumor; he was 38.
One never knows when our time will expire. So often, we live as though we have a limitless supply of time. In reading world news and local obituaries, however, I routinely come across people who’ve died at all ages and stages in their life. For me, this serves as an important reminder: there’s no guarantee that we will see old age. And that applies to myself, as well as my beloved family and friends.
Being in touch with death and dying keeps me in close contact with my gratitude for life. Volunteering with hospice affords me the opportunity to train in the art of living life well, with however much time I have. And I am deeply touched and nourished by all of the patients I have the honor and privilege to meet with, who serve as my teachers in this regard.
One person’s birthday
marks the day of someone’s death.
This is the nature of things,
on every single day of the year.
Remember, we do not have an endless
sea of time in which to submerge ourselves in.
Live life well today.
Death cannot be foreseen,
nor can it be haggled with.
Do not live in fear of its truth.
Let it usher you, instead,
towards a freedom
only possible when you succumb fully
to what it means to be alive.
Dearest Alison, I will miss you.
To read an article Alison wrote for our 2012 edition of the Open Way Sanghas newsletter, entitled “Zen and the Art of Sheepherding”, click here: http://www.openway.org/sites/openway.org/files/documents/Open_Way_newsletter_Fall_2012.pdf