Thoughts Upon the Untimely Passing of My Cousin, Ben Schuurink
I was walking just after sunset with some light still in the western sky. Had been walking over an hour. Thinking about my 48 year old cousin whose cancer had returned and was now very close to death.
He died the next night. The way they described his suffering and condition made me think perhaps it would be better for him if he died. Terrible for the survivors, of course.
Just then I saw the moon rise, an impressively large, dusty red ball. As the temperature dropped, a breeze stirred the pam trees around me, giving me an unexpected chill after a hot spring day.
The chill made me take more notice of my surroundings. Stars coming out above, to my right, at the bottom of the valley, the center of the city gleamed below that red ball rising over the eastern mountains. What a grand scene.
In a temporary and unexpected state of wonder I stopped walking as it came to me that experiencing this exact type of clear awareness is the essence of life. It is a temporary gift from the universe. And in direct answer to my question about whether a person is better off living with suffering or not it seemed obvious that even in suffering that essence, that gift, is still there.
But of course that did not give me any comfort at all, since a terminally ill person like my cousin would soon have this awareness gift revoked. I searched for a way to intuitively see into that mystery. I know that whatever the reality is, I would have no choice but to accept it.
As I stood there on a sidewalk in a city, with the stars in the sky above, I felt myself disappearing into nothingness. I looked down and thought I saw stars there also!
Two things happened at that point. One was that I became aware that I had again reached a point where I knew that only my awareness remained, all else in me was shut off. The immediate realization was that at death, this would be my experience, and I felt to grin broadly. There was something very good about that state of being.
The second thing that happened was that my brain sabotaged me. As I perceived stars below as well as above, it gave me the thought that I was falling into and through the pavement. Like in a bad dream when you desperately try to awaken, my mind tried to return focus to my eyes and break this spell.
The mind won, the spell was broken, and I continued my walk.
But even with the spell broken, I had a strange, tingling, comfortable feeling that caused me to feel joy, to laugh out loud inwardly. I realized I had just again sensed the abyss of nothingness and had just momentarily become aware again of the awareness that remains there always, that we are all a part of.
What does it mean? I don't know. I have learned to accept my intellect's inability to put into words what I felt for that little moment outside of time. I felt I had just had another intuitive inkling of there being something to a human being beyond what meets the eye and the brain. I felt that this perception had come in response to my frustration and even anger at contemplating my cousin's death. He was extremely fit, a very dedicated participant in all that life had to offer. Plus, he contributed to the lives of those he touched with his enthusiasm and good humor.
He will be most sorely missed by his wife, brother, mother and father, and all those close to him.
Given my little (repeat) encounter with a reality beyond the physical, beyond time, I must say that some of my original sadness has left me. It will be some time, perhaps, before I follow Ben's path, but I am not afraid, and I will not be sad.
It is the survivors for whom I feel very sad. --abe--