Meditating in New Zealand (Part 5 of 6)
During the drive to Mom's nursing home, I found myself undecided whether or not to tell her of dad's passing. She probably wouldn't understand, but I couldn't be sure of that. Who knows what goes on in the minds of people in her condition? But if by chance she did understand, the news would be devastating, and take everything away from her that she had left.
She always loved him, regardless of the difficult life she had. I could always see it in her eyes. I asked a nurse what she thought about the situation, and she replied that it wouldn't hurt to tell her, that she wouldn't understand anyway. So the nurse and I walked in together to see Mom.
My mother was sitting there, but she wasn't staring at the wall... she was looking directly at me! Her dark, brown eyes pierced my soul, as she slowly raised her hand to her forehead and made the sign of the cross.
I stopped dead in my tracks. My blood ran cold and chills ran up and down my spine; something supernatural was taking place... she already knew that dad was gone. I stared at her in disbelief, and just that quickly, she looked away as if nothing had happened and fell back into her self-enclosed world.
I glanced at the nurse, whose face had turned white, and asked her if she had ever seen anything like that. She just shook her head and raised her eyebrows.
I sat by Mom's side and went through the motions of telling her about dad's final moments; his last words, but she showed no interest or recognition whatsoever, and when the nurse brought in her tray, she ate as if I wasn't there. She didn't live too long after this.
Janet returned from the U.K. (over my protests) and we eventually moved from Johnstown to Winchester, Virginia, hoping for a better chance for employment, even though none of these small Appalachian towns could offer much. Winchester was only an hour's drive from the Bhavana Society and Bhante G, who was just over the line in West Virginia and a couple of hours from my mother's nursing home in Pennsylvania, so we were able to deepen our practice and at the same time keep an eye on Mom.
We convinced a property manager to take a chance on us in the way of a small apartment, which wasn't easy with our spotty history, Janet's shiny bald head, and driving the old, rusty Toyota that mystically kept going for us. We didn't have much stuff either, so we cruised garage sales and thrift stores to get a few things together, like a $3 phone to keep in touch with the nursing home. Luckily, we were accustomed to sleeping on bare, wooden floors in Thailand, so sleeping on a carpeted floor was a treat.
Whenever we found ourselves separated from Theravada monasteries, day jobs were required to pay the bills; nobody was there to back us up. Only in very spiritual countries, and small growing pockets of awareness here in the States, are meditators looked upon as valuable assets, and supported to one degree or another. Because Janet and I were married, however, Bhante G insisted that we live in town rather than at the Bhavana Society, and we understood this. In Thailand, it's okay to be married, because in Thailand there is more room to support spiritual couples, where each can stay in a separate monastery, or separated in a large monastery.
But we weren't in Thailand, we were back in the good old U.S. of A. where only the brightest, healthiest, most ambitious, and most successful are respected. Serenity and peace have little value at all, and are laughable to those caught up in the drive and ambition that are its present day American sacraments. I couldn't complain, however; this country is free and full of opportunity, more than any other, but I couldn't help feel that our heads overrule our hearts here, and that someday this imbalance of wisdom over compassion would spell trouble.
Our interests were not about money but about our practice of digging out the greed, hatred, and delusion that still resided in our hearts - the root cause of society's problems as well. Over 50 % of the world's children go to bed hungry every night, and it's not due to lack of food; it's due to the greed and ideological hatred of the power hungry and money hungry leaders. Although our practice was now stable regardless of what we became involved with, our hearts yearned to do something connected to meditation, rather than the day jobs we needed to survive. But I couldn't leave Mom alone to fend for herself, and made a vow to hold her hand when she died. I had to stay close.