The Books Keeping Me Grounded as I Contemplate Becoming a Care Partner to My Parents

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My mother was driving home from work one drizzly day at the end of 2019 when she was struck by an oncoming car that had veered into her lane. Her car was totaled but, luckily, she sustained minimal injuries. Still, she was mere months away from retirement and, now, she had to grapple with the effects of a concussion, shoulder pain, and severe anxiety.

It was eventually determined that she would need surgery for her shoulder. But then the pandemic hit and her treatment was delayed.

A year and a half later, she still has shoulder pain and tires easily. She goes to physical therapy three times a week. Sometimes, she has flare-ups and needs cortisone shots. She’s nervous about driving very far.

My father, meanwhile, has been wrestling with chronic depression and anxiety for years (we two are birds of a feather…). In recent years, his hands have developed tremors that have become increasingly worse. Testing has revealed inadequate answers.

Amidst other medical issues, it also emerged that my father was experiencing memory problems. The other month, he was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment which, in 50% of cases, can grow into full-blown dementia.

I’ve had an interest in end-of-life care for a while now, mostly because of what I observed when my mom was caring for her own father. I’ve written previously about the books I’ve enjoyed that tackle end-of-life care, compassion fatigue, and caregiver burnout. More recently, the topic has become a side niche for me in my journalism work. In a piece that went live on Rewire.org last month, I write about the lack of systemic support for unpaid family caregivers.

All this time, I felt I was preparing for something. After all, I’m 40. My parents are 70.

But as the past two years have brought more challenges — both with their health and with the decisions I was forced to make for my 6-year-old as COVID spread across the world — I realized I wasn’t prepared at all.

So, I turned to books. Because of course I did. That’s what I do. And while I’m still scared of the inevitable shift to come in the next few years, I at least feel more grounded in what it all means, and what options we have.

If you, too, are entering the “sandwich generation,” allow me to share which books were helpful for me.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I actually read this one several years ago, but I’ve found it to be a good one to return to. In it, Gawande contemplates what it means to experience a “good death,” and shows how medical advances have led us to push back against the bounds of mortality in such a way our quality of life in later years is adversely impacted. He then shows that there is another way and that, rather than postponing death, we can enjoy life — until the very end.

Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them) by Sallie Tisdale

A fellow Book Rioter recommended this one to me back when I first started to get nervous about my parents’ health. After reading a library copy, I ordered my own copy, and now I’m doing a reread so I can dog-ear pages and take notes. Every time my husband sees the book on the counter, he shakes his head and calls me a morbid weirdo. But this book is a revelation. Written by a practicing Buddhist who also spent a decade working as a nurse in the field of palliative care, Tisdale provides a comforting perspective on whether or not a “good death” actually exists (good for whom?); what you should and should not do, say, and expect from your loved ones in their later years; what you can expect at the different stages of aging; the nature of grief; and more. I may be a morbid weirdo, but at least I’m a morbid weirdo who now feels a little less afraid.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

I actually ready this one right before my dad received his MCI diagnosis, and I felt as if I were looking into my future. There is the anxious, aging father who eventually slips into dementia. There is the willful, stubborn-as-fuck, aging mother who refuses to ask for help when she needs it. And then there is the daughter — Roz Chast herself — who doesn’t know quite how to handle this sudden shift without completely upending her own life. Beyond the parallels to my own life, I appreciated how this graphic memoir showed a woman pushing back against what is expected of daughters, making decisions that took into account not only the care of her parents but also of herself. Foregoing one’s own care is a trap many unpaid family caregivers fall into.

What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang

My mom and I have always been close…in a slightly codependent way. So I immediately connected to Lang as she described the ways in which she needed her mother — how much she counted on her to be there and support her during hard times — and how disoriented she became when, after becoming a mother herself, things changed. There are a lot of layers to this memoir, but what felt particularly relevant to me were the moments of reflection around her changing relationship to her mother as her mom became swallowed up by Alzheimer’s and the way this informed how she mothered her own daughter. On top of that, threaded throughout the book, was a fable of sorts about a woman who carries her child across a river and, as the waters rise, must decide whether to save herself or her child. By the end, though, Lang begins to see that the question of who to save is not as black and white as it first appeared.

Complete Article HERE!

We Used to Photograph the Dead

What a curious Victorian practice reveals about our modern approach to death

By Brandy L Schillace

It’s a wistful image. The unknown woman seems pensive, gazing reflectively into the foreground. Her head rests upon lace, possibly her own handiwork, and behind is a shelf of small vials, the homemaker’s apothecary. She is graceful, quiet, restive.

In truth, the woman is dead.

The picture (below) was taken postmortem, her body poised under the direction of memento mori photographers using the daguerreotype processes (iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor).

Why go through all this trouble? The nineteenth century saw a sudden and increased interest in public cemeteries and mourning rituals of all kinds (such as brooches made of human hair, complex funeral fashions), partly due to Queen Victoria’s own prominent widow’s weeds, and partly because the middle classes had means to acquire them. But it was the advent of photography that offered the best means of permanently memorializing the dead.

From the collection of Steve DeGenero, c/o DEATH’S SUMMER COAT

As a historian and author, I’ve been researching death and dying for years. My first book, Death’s Summer Coat, took a long look at our grieving rituals — and in this series, I have been re-examining those practices in light of Covid-19.

There are two images from my research into memento mori that I find particularly moving. The first is presented above. But the second wounds me with its grace, its heartfelt grief. If offers us a picture of the mother in mourning, having lost her infant child — and it offers a reminder that in the 19th century, the odds of raising your children into adulthood were dismal. Disease, poor hygiene, the absence of germ theory, and lack of vaccines all contributed to extraordinary mortality in children under the age of 5 (that is 46% or roughly 463 deaths per 1000 births).

From the collection of Steve DeGenero, c/o DEATH’S SUMMER COAT

Photography, with its use of mercury and silver, was expensive. So much so that most people never had a photo taken at all, or only on their wedding day. Imagine, then: no baby pictures. No photos of children at play, no images of holidays gone by. The human memory loses detail quickly; the context fades, then the contours, then the features of even well-beloved faces. Posing a child in death, often as though sleeping or still alive, was a means of keeping their face fresh before you — a way of remembering.

These images were not hidden away either. They would be displayed in the home, along with other features of grief. Black draped over mirrors or windows, and of course, the mourning clothes worn by those who could afford them. In our present world of rush and hurry, we are encouraged to get over our grief and come back to “normal,” understood as a state prior to loss — so great is this impulse that lingering grief is considered pathological. But for Victorians, grief was public, communal, and long lasting.

When Queen Victoria’s husband Albert died, she withdrew from public and wore black for the rest of her life. She was, in many respects, defined by her grief. It has been argued that the responsibility for making mourning ‘fashionable’ lies with her — by the height of the Victorian period, mourners were living memorials (even mourning billboards) to death.

In the first year of mourning, for instance, a widow wore black crape, a scratchy silk material that was stiff, crimped, and reflected no light. In her second year, she wore “secondary mourning,” which was still black but might be trimmed with white collars or cuffs. “Ordinary mourning” was next, again, still black, but now the fabric could be shiny — and then “half-mourning” when gray or purple was permitted.

In 1840, barrister Basil Montagu records that “in the mourning dress, the outward sign of sorrow, we call for the solace of compassion, for the kind words and looks of friends and for the chastened mirth of strangers, who, unacquainted with the deceased, respect our grief.” Walking down a city street, an onlooker might not only understand who was grieving, but in what stage of grief they happened to be.

Photographing the dead occurred at the very beginning of these stages, when the body still remained in the home — the literal funeral parlor. They would be posed, sometimes with still living children, as though still alive (sometimes with eyes open and propped into a seated position; many such photos are viewable in the Burns Archive). It inaugurated a period of intense grief, and provided a memento that would serve as the body itself was removed for burial. And yet, the practice fades and disappears by the end of the century.

Some of this is driven by the practical changes of photography; as it became less expensive, people had more living images of their loved ones to hand. But it is also true that the Victorian grief culture fell victim to the speed of life, industry, business, and changing ideas about what sort of emotions were too private the display. We are not very tolerant of grief, today. As though there is something wrong with feeling loss so keenly.

In my book, I reflected that “the modern man has lost loss; death as a community event and mourning as a communal practice has been steadily killed off.” That was 2014, and it seems a very long time ago; we’ve lived through a great deal since then, including a pandemic and mortality rates that simply cannot be ignored, screened, or hurried off

I’ve begun to wonder what we can learn from a cultural past that didn’t try to hide death — that even displayed photos of loved ones after death. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the slow process, slow like those vapor-produced daguerreotypes, taking form and changing shape and slowly coming to light

We are allowed our pain. And perhaps, if we were allowed it more publicly, we might all be kinder and gentler to each other. In my next piece for this series, I want to talk about time — taking time, having permission, and knowing that there is no wrong way to grieve.

Complete Article HERE!

What happens when someone is dying?

Dying is unpredictable. It is not always possible to know for sure that a person is in the last days of life, predict exactly when a person will die, or know exactly what changes the person you are caring for will experience when they are dying.

However, there are certain bodily changes that show a person is likely to be close to death. It is normal for these signs to come and go over a period of days, and if they do go, this does not usually mean that the person is recovering.

Some of these changes may be distressing, but it can be reassuring to know what to expect and how to help. Signs that a person may be dying can include:

By clicking on the links above you can find out more about these changes and whether there is anything you can do to help.

The links below give more information and practical advice relating to other concerns or questions that might arise:

More information about support available and what to do after a death is available at the links below:

Thanks to the National Council for Palliative Care, Sue Ryder and Hospice UK for their kind permission to reproduce content from their publication What to expect when someone important to you is dying, which can be downloaded or purchased from the Hospice UK website.

Complete Article HERE!

Scientists Monitored 631 People As They Died.

This Is What They Found

The largest international study of the physiology of death to date shows that death is “more of a continuum than the flipping of a switch.”

By Eleanor Cummins

The living have always worried about the dead coming back to life. It’s the plot of the New Testament, the reason 19th century families installed bells in their loved one’s coffins, and a source of tension in end-of-life care today.

While doctors work to reassure families holding vigil in intensive care units and hospice facilities that the end has indeed come, death remains something of a mystery—even among medical researchers. 

These unresolved questions around things like brain death, cardiac death, and more have led to the proliferation of “myths and misinformation,” said Sonny Dhanani, chief of pediatric intensive care at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. 

“We felt [stories about the dead coming back to life] might have been impacting people’s motivation to consent for their loved one to be a donor, and for the medical community to offer, donations,” he said. “We wanted to provide scientific evidence to inform the medical understanding of dying.”

In a new study, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dhanani and his team report the results of the largest international study into the physiology of dying to date. It suggests the living can rest easy, kind of.

Between 2014 and 2018, the researchers observed the heart function of 631 patients in 20 adult intensive care units in Canada, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands after they were taken off life support. The scientists found that 14 percent of the dead showed some flicker of cardiac activity—measured by the electrical activity of the heart and blood pressure—after a period of pulselessness.

But the doctors at the patient’s bedside never got a determination of death wrong. “No one lived. Everyone died. No one actually came back to life,” Dhanani said.

The sputtering was short-lived—the furthest cardiac activity came just 4 minutes and 20 seconds after their heart initially stopped beating—and not strong enough to support other organs, like the brain. 

The data “help us understand how to medically define death, which is more of a continuum than the flipping of a switch,” according to Joanna Lee Hart, a pulmonary and critical care physician and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

“Our bodies are physiologically designed to stay alive… As our bodies try to keep us alive, they will pump out natural chemicals to sustain life as long as possible,” Hart wrote in an email to Motherboard. But, she added, “Once the dying process starts, it is very hard to return a person’s body back to a condition where the person can survive.”

This should be comforting to families and medical providers. Among other things, the research affirms that current practices, which typically tell doctors to wait 5 minutes after the pulse stops to name a time of death, are working. At that point, things like organ retrieval are safe to start.

While there are still plenty of questions about death, dying, and the afterlife, this study—which is unlikely ever to be repeated, given its scope—is something close to the definitive word on the question of the post-mortem cardiac activity.

“Determining death is so emotional to everyone,” Dhanani said. “We hope that rigorously studying death and dying, not being afraid of that conversation, will help.”

Complete Article HERE!

Searching for meaning in my mother’s death

By Susan V. Bosak

Death is in the news. There’s the pandemic — all the souls who died alone, a large proportion of them elders in long-term care. Now extreme heat-related deaths are making headlines. There are deaths in contexts as diverse as the Florida condo tower collapse and the unmarked graves on former Canadian residential school sites. Human-made systems and structures are dying, as is too much of the plant and animal life on this planet.

Then my mother died.

Having cared for her 24/7 for 12 years at home, right now the days are too long and the nights are too quiet.

She was diagnosed with dementia in 2007. We moved her in with us and travelled with her on her journey. It was always about quality of life, and death with dignity.

On the day she died, the people who loved her were there, including my four-year-old twin goddaughters, who called her “Nana.” I was talking to their mother, and the girls were playing by the bed. Then I noticed Mom take a deep, pleased sigh and move her mouth slightly. I initially thought she was rousing a bit because of the visitors. But a moment later I noticed she wasn’t breathing. We checked the pulse, and Mom had passed. It was very peaceful, with bright sunlight streaming in the windows. The room could have felt empty, but because the girls were there, it was full of the heartbeat of life.

It was a good, meaningful death. I know I’m lucky.

The last 12 years exhausted us, taught us, changed us. They were full of humanity, interdependence and love. This was happening in parallel to the bigger world becoming increasingly fractured and uncaring.

Coming out of this experience, as a living embodiment of my mom’s legacy, how do I honour what we learned? Perhaps by deeply questioning why we all aren’t able to live a good life, in what some Indigenous peoples call “right relationships,” and respect death in a way that informs life.

In a death-denying culture, what does all of the death around us mean? Our story around death is empty. In a context of an anti-aging fairy tale, it’s obscured by numbers and hidden in shadows. This speaks to our way of life.

Climate scientists talk about three themes moving forward: mitigation, adaptation and suffering.

Ironically, our way of life is not only causing death, but is literally built on death — from millions of years of compressed dead plant matter. When we talk about climate change, we focus on carbon as the problem. The real problem is that we don’t live carbon, we live lives — and our way of life is empty.

The most practical question we face today is how to commit to some notion of human flourishing in the face of existential threat.

Indigenous peoples warned colonists that going against Natural Law, the law of life which respects death, is like going against life, toward your own demise.

Native American Faithkeeper Oren Lyons was involved in the creation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As a document that’s fundamentally about life, he has said it can be summed up in four words: “values change for survival.”

In medieval times, memento mori was a Latin phrase urging people to “remember that you must die.” Death is supposed to give life more meaning. It’s a teacher in plain sight, helping us discover what really matters.

If all the death around us is to mean anything, it should be a call to reclaim our humanity, a way of being that works for the continuation of life. Life and death are not inconsequential accidents, but organic parts of a greater whole.

This is the slippery, messy, vital work of our time. Legacy work connects your life story to other life on the planet, and to the even bigger story of lifetimes across generations. Values that are full of life flow from that kind of rich story.

Legacy is not a trivial thing. As a profound connection across time, in the context of lifetimes across generations, it can be either a burden or a gift. It’s where the power is. We don’t take that power, that responsibility, seriously enough.

Before you die, before I die, I have a question: What’s worth living for and dying for, in what we do and how we do it every day, year into year, generation over generation?

Complete Article HERE!

Planning Death Has Gone Digital

— Inside the Apps That Prepare You for Loss

Since the start of the pandemic, more people are downloading apps that help users process grief.

By

Lucy Clay, 26, was at work when her phone buzzed with a message from her mother. Her dad was seriously ill, and doctors had raised the possibility of discontinuing treatment. Lucy was thrown into a cycle of anticipatory grief – and she turned to technology to help her with the waves of anxiety that she was experiencing, and to prepare herself for the next stage of her father’s palliative care. 

“It’s been incredibly comforting to know that there is a resource that you can access anytime you need it, day or night,” she told Observer. “When things are really bad, I can’t bear the thought of having to explain what is happening. There’s no substitute for having a human sit with you in the horror, but sometimes the silence of technology is a welcome alternative to the well-intentioned friend.”

For Lucy, who is herself a funeral director, the idea of death is a part of everyday life. Yet her career could never prepare her for the reality of caring for a terminally ill parent. After all, losing a loved one is an overwhelming experience. Family members and friends are often expected to deal with the vast administrative burdens that come with death at a time when they desperately need to grieve. And although death eventually comes for all of us, a surprising number of people have no real plan in place for when the end of their life approaches. Data suggests that although 90% of Americans think that talking to their loved ones about end-of-life logistics is important, only 27% have actually done so.

Enter the end-of-life industry. Over the last few years a plethora of apps and services, like those used by Lucy, have sprung up that promise to ease the process of planning for death. Whether it’s noting what healthcare that you’d like to receive, recording memories so that a curated legacy is left behind, or uploading important documents, there are plenty of options on offer. Some target a specific aspect of the death planning process, such as Safe Beyond, which allows users to record messages for the people that they leave behind to access after they pass. Others, such as leading end-of-life planning app Cake, offer a more rounded approach, guiding individuals through everything from writing a will to planning an eco-friendly funeral.   

Lucy now uses a range of apps that provide solace in an incredibly difficult time and help her to understand how best to manage a parent’s end-of-life journey. For her, the timing of technology’s increasing popularity when it comes to grief and end-of-life care was crucial. She describes the experience of looking after an extremely sick parent as feeling forgotten about – services and contact with care teams was limited due to COVID restrictions, and she found herself finding comfort, information and community in digital spaces instead. It’s a pattern that’s been seen across the industry, as online apps and services have seen a boost in their subscriber base over the course of the pandemic.

Liz Eddy launched end-of-life planning app Lantern in 2019 after struggling with the death of several family members. Months later the pandemic hit, and Eddy found that the app was flooded with users, an increase of 450% within two months. 

“It was bizarre timing,” she says. “Obviously, we had absolutely no idea that the pandemic was coming, but within a month of launch we were starting to hear about COVID.”

What surprised Eddy the most about her inflated user base was that most new sign-ups weren’t people approaching the end of their life, or even at an age when individuals usually start to consider making plans for their death (only around 14% of Americans under the age of 30 currently have a will). In fact, the Lantern team found that the majority of new members were between the age of 25-45, a much more significant proportion of their user base than they had seen pre-pandemic.

“People are aware of their mortality and the need for pre-planning, but very few people actually do it,” she explains. “Something like COVID gives people an immediate reason… it’s a reminder of how unpredictable life can be.”

Someone who is finely attuned to how important technology can be when life takes an unpredictable turn is David Kessler. David lost his twenty-one-year-old son suddenly several years ago and found himself embroiled in a logistical nightmare when trying to close his late son’s bank account. He discovered Empathy, an app that claims to streamline end-of-life bureaucracy and promises to automate some of the more complicated aspects of the post-death process. David, who now works as a grief expert, was so impressed by how technology could reconfigure end-of-life planning and processing that he ended up joining the Empathy team, where he now works as the Chief Empathy Officer.

“There’s no denying that COVID has made grief a more prevalent topic,” he says. “Loss has no demographic. It affects everyone at some point in their life… technology can’t promise to take the pain away, but it can hold your hand through the process whilst also offering guidance in the often unknown terrain of grief.”

In a world where much of our lives take place online, it seems only natural that death should find its own digital niche. The pandemic has boosted an already burgeoning industry, causing younger generations to reflect deeply on what they want to leave behind. Mark Taubert, a palliative care doctor who has been working throughout the pandemic told us how apps can prompt his patients to think about preferred places of death or make their wishes known ready for when they are too unwell to communicate. He describes the relationship between technology and end-of-life care as deeply complex, acknowledging that the way that we manage grief is influenced by the people around us, society, and our own experiences – and that the pandemic has been crucial in prompting us to consider how technology might play a part in both life and death.

“Technology can nudge us into asking the right questions about what we’d want towards the end-of-life, but it can’t help us answer those essential questions,” he says. “There are sites, videos, and apps that talk very openly about choices we might face at the end of our lives, and it seems like these are prompting people to take control and actually tell their clinicians what they would and wouldn’t want. I hope that technology pushes us further into that openness and peer-supported patient empowerment.”

For Lucy, who is now living with her parents so that she can play a more active role in her dad’s care, the support of her colleagues and family has been crucial, but she says that without technology she would have felt “a whole lot more lost”.

“Technology and apps help me sit in the waves of anxiety that come with knowing that someone you care about is suffering,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like I’d do anything just for some rest from the distress. In a time when most of my usual relaxation and distractions techniques have failed me, technology has helped me to find solace.”

Complete Article HERE!

We Are the Flowers in the Garden

By Margaret Meloni

Once while I was visiting my mother, she looked out of the window and saw some strangers wandering around in her backyard. She opened the sliding glass door and asked, “Can I help you with something?”

Sheepishly, one of the visitors replied: “We heard about your garden and we just wanted to take a peek.”

My mother had a beautiful English garden. It was her pride and joy. I know for a fact that on the morning that she died, she had worked in her garden. Which is exactly what she would have wanted. Sometimes, when I visited, we would walk through the garden together. She would give me a tour; while pulling a weed or two she would teach me which plants should be near one another, and what to plant to stave off intrusive insects or aggressive vines. She carefully cultivated each section of her garden, paying regular, focused attention to what was or was not working and adjusting as needed. I view her garden and her work as an analogy for our own spiritual practice.

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, leads to such great harm as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated leads to great harm.”

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit.”

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress.”

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, brings about such happiness as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, brings about happiness.” (AN 1: 27–30)

We are like the flowers in the garden. We require careful cultivation. To grow in our practice, we need to place ourselves in an appropriate environment, surrounded with the right companionship, placing regular, focused attention through learning and meditating and following the Noble Eightfold Path.

During our garden tours, Mom would often cut back or completely remove a dead or dying plant. On more than on occasion she said to me: “There is a lot of death in the garden.” Her tone was very matter of fact. Her statement came from a place of this is how it is.

Mom never let gardening deaths and disappointments get the better of her. She had a very good understanding of the expected lifespans of her plants. She was not completely surprised if a raccoon dug up her bulbs, or if a passing deer bit the head off of a flower, or if a plant seemed to randomly die. Occasionally she would express annoyance at the raccoons and the deer, and disappointment when a plant did not work out, but she did not dwell on it.

Mom gardened with non-attachment. With a complete understanding of horticultural impermanence, she did not avoid using a flower that would bloom quickly and then fade away. She would showcase that flower. Finding a way to surround it with plants that would allow it to have a brief moment of stardom. Then, the surrounding plants would have their turn. And eventually, they too would disappear. Within the context of her garden, Mom understood the truth of aging and death. She knew that once planted, a flower would bloom and then die.

“The aging of beings in the various orders of beings, their old age, brokenness of teeth, grayness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of life, weakness of faculties — this is called aging. The passing of beings out of the various orders of beings, their passing away, dissolution, disappearance, dying, completion of time, dissolution of the aggregates, laying down of the body — this is called death. So this aging and this death are what is called aging and death. With the arising of birth there is the arising of aging and death.” (MN 9.22)

We are like the flowers in the garden. Once we are planted and begin to grow, we will die. And others around us will die. Take a look at a garden, or a park, or a forest. There might be tall and mighty trees that are more than a hundred years old. Then there is a flowering ground cover that shows up in early spring and fades away with the summer heat. There are rose bushes, which last several seasons. And, perhaps, tulips or daffodils that pop up once a year; they have one bloom and they are done. We do not know who that seasonal ground cover or the ancient tree will be.

Do not let the concept of impermanence discourage you. When the meaning of impermanence is misunderstood, it can push you toward nihilism. Some develop an attitude of “if nothing lasts, why bother?” If my mother had taken this point of view, she would have missed out on all the joy she felt while gardening. Her neighbors would have been denied the opportunity of walking past such beautiful scenery.

Go all in. Instead of avoiding experiences in life, learn the most you can from those experiences. Instead of avoiding relationships with others, be fully in those relationships, without attachment. Learn from the present moment because it will be gone. Don’t think, “Why bother? This will not last.” Do think: “This opportunity will not be here again. Let me really be in this moment and let it be my teacher.” Like my mother with her garden, be skillful in how you cultivate your practice and your mind. Be aware of death. And let it encourage you to live.

What arises, ceases. With each passing moment, even the strongest, sturdiest tree becomes closer to death. Today, petunias might be blooming, yet they will wilt under the hot summer Sun. It is not about if we and our loved ones will die, it is when.

Complete Article HERE!