In the course of everyday life it's easy for me to sit back on my meditation cushion and assert that my heart and mind are equanimous, that I possess inner peace, strength and resilience and that I'm able to handle whatever life throws at me with an open heart. It is quite another thing to continue to assert such things with credibility when faced with life's most difficult challenges, but that is exactly what I've done.
When my father passed away on 12 May, my initial reaction was to scream as loud as I could, as if its velocity would somehow force the thoughts out of my mind. This was followed by a period of involuntary shaking, then sobbing and then silence.
In the days and now weeks that have followed, deep sadness and sorrow have been ever-present and the tears come and go, but inside I remain still, quiet open and remarkably content.
This is not to say that I am not grieving or that I am not feeling great loss. I am. He was my only father after all and we loved each other dearly, but he was also 86 years old and over the past couple of years his health had been deteriorating; in the last 2 months of his life he was in hospital, in and out of the ICU. He was an independent, dignified and vital man and it would appear that he saw these qualities rapidly diminishing and simply said, "Enough". He went peacefully in his sleep after asking the nurse to find his golf clubs, for according to him he was off to play golf that day.
In the days after his death, at the funeral and during the shiva, the prevailing sense was not of sadness for myself, but relief at the end of his suffering. Of course, I'm going to miss my dad like crazy. Of course, I would have loved him to have seen my son grow up and I know my heart strings will be pulled at each milestone, but what I feel above all is gratitude - for the long and wonderful life my dad enjoyed, for the gift of life he gave me and for all of the joy, beauty and happiness that has been bestowed upon me.
And so life goes on, with my dad's memory held firmly in my heart and in the hearts of those who he loved and who loved him. When I spoke at his funeral, I hadn't prepared anything in advance. I spoke from my heart and the message was thus - to love and be loved, that is all.