A few months ago, someone I know from social media passed away. She was a school teacher. She was 33. I got acquainted to Amy almost 10 years ago. We both followed each other in social media. We are both Tibetan Buddhists although she belongs to the Nyingma tradition and me Gelugpa. However she had attended the Grand Puja events organised by Gaden Shartse Dro-Phen Ling a few times before, especially those conducted by Dagyab Rinpoche. She liked Dagyab Rinpoche's teachings.
It was only in early December 2016 from her updates in Instagram, I realised she was very sick. It was bone cancer and it was at terminal stage. I messaged her privately to send my regards. She only had one request...... She hoped to meet Dagyab Rinpoche for the last time before she dies. She told me she probably had a few more months left so she could wait until CNY period when Rinpoche would be in Singapore.
She had scheduled a visit to Taiwan to see her own guru for the last time in December 2016 but she was too weak to travel by then. She was pretty devastated her own guru also could not come Singapore in the next 6 months either.
On 6 Jan 2017, she passed away. It was faster than what she had thought "a few more months left'. Another lesson on impermanence for me.
I would like to share some excerpts of Amy's posts on her thoughts /experience when she was dying, which I feel is useful for the rest of us who are clinging to this life dearly.
"Tired again from having to deal with people's resistance to death. Why is it seen as such a terrible thing?
1. If your belief system scares you about your afterlife even though you're essentially a good person, change it.
2. If the way you live your life scares you about your afterlife, change yourself.
3. If your belief system makes you judge good people for being different from you and convinces you that they're going to a bad afterlife, you probably need to examine and change yourself and your way of thought.
4. If you fear the afterlife because you don't know what will happen, find out about it.
5. If you lack faith, find it."
"I have been a good person mostly, and I know what to expect when in the bardo (the 49 days after death), so I am not afraid of death. In fact I'm excited about it. So I don't understand why people are calling me pessimistic and scolding me when I'm ready for death. I am taking supplements and medication, and am going for treatment. I'm not suicidal. It's not my dying that is giving me anxiety, but people's behaviour."
"To me, a fear of death is silly. It's like people who insist on not visiting a country they've not been to because of media misrepresentation. Or, if they have been a rotten person, then they deserve where they are going to."
"I'm living in pain and with disability. Even if the tumours are miraculously all rid of, I will be living in fear and paranoia after it. That would be hell to me, and I honestly do not think that I deserve it. A quick death would be mercy, and it's good that I still have the time to tie up loose ends."
"Saying goodbye is hard but we all need to, eventually. And if we have been good to each other, we will meet again, as old wine in new bottles :) "
"So if you can't handle your own fears and choose to inflict them on me, please leave me alone. If you find it hard to say goodbye and can't get over yourself to treat me with kindness and respect, please leave me alone. I already have more than enough loved ones who know and respect me enough to fill my remaining days with love and joy, because that's what happens when you have lived striving to be the best person you can be to others."
"Am feeling more calm and collected now that I'm finishing up with both, so that I can go into retreat to study. Seeing all those friends from different parts of my life once again helped me to piece together who I was as a person while we reminisced about old times -- the chemo erased many good memories. I led a full life, and am loved by many around me. If I could I would want to see a longer list of friends but that would compromise on my study time, so I'm really sorry to the ones I have left out."
"This is the most perfect way to die, with me able to tie up loose ends, and have a Tibetan Buddhist death at home in my bed. I'm extremely blessed to be able to go this way. Most of all I'm excited about the next destination -- it's like I'm traveling! "
"And all this time I have the feeling that the purpose of my life is to show others how to live a meaningful life of no regrets, and more importantly, that death isn't a scary thing at all, and that one can choose to die gracefully with dignity."
"The breathlessness continues to worsen and we're controlling it with drugs. My nurse assures me that I'm barely taking enough to have any effect, so I shouldn't be hesitant to up the dosage. But the thing is the breakthrough drug (funnily, same one for pain and breathlessly for me) makes me incredibly drowsy and I'll end up sleeping lots."
"Finally got to see my palliative doctor today and it made me extremely happy to hear him say that I'm his most unique patient because I'm so ready and unafraid of death. It's an assurance that I'm on the right track doing the right thing."
All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at that time. May Amy have a good rebirth.