386 APPENDIX THREE Sogyal Rinpoche's teachings, and she was delighted when he sent her some tapes from Paris, which he said would have a special meaning for her. Dorothy prepared and planned for her death right down to the last detail. She wanted there to be no unfinished business for others to sort out, and spent months working on all the practical arrangements. She didn't seem to have any fear of dying, but wanted to feel that there was nothing left undone, and that she could then approach death without distraction. She derived a lot of comfort from the knowledge that she had done no real harm to others in her life, and that she had received and followed the teachings; as she said "I've done my homework." When the time came for Dorothy to go into the hospice, and leave her flat for the last time—a flat once full of beautiful treasures collected over the years—she left with just a small holdall and without even a backward glance. She had already given most of her personal possessions away, but she took a small picture of Rinpoche that she always kept with her, and his small book on meditation. She had essentialized her life into that one small bag: "traveling light," she called it. She was very matter-of-fact about leaving, almost as though she were only going as far as the shops; she simply said "Bye bye, flat," waved her handand walked out of the door. Her room in the hospice became a very special place. There was always a candle lit on her bedside table in front of Rinpoche's picture, and once, when someone asked if she would like to talk to him, she smiled, looked at the photograph, and said: "No, there's no need, he's always here!" She often referred to Rinpoche's advice on creating the "right environment," and had a beautiful painting of a rainbow put on the wall directly in front of her; there were flowers everywhere, brought by her visitors. Dorothy remained in commandof the situation, right up to the end, and her trust in the teachings seemed never to waver, even for a second. It felt as though she was helping us, rather than the other way round! She was consistently cheerful, confident, and humorous, and had a dignity about her, which we saw sprung from her courage and self-reliance. The joy with which she always welcomed us secretly helped us to understand that death is by no means somber or terrifying. This was her gift to us, and it made us feel honored and privileged to be with her. We had almost come to depend on Dorothy's strength, so it was humbling for us when we realized that she needed our strength and support. She was going through some final details about her funeral, when suddenly we saw that, after having been so concerned about others, what she needed now was to let go of all these details and turn her attention toward herself. And she needed us to give her our permission to do so. It was a difficult, painful death and Dorothy was like a warrior.
TWO STORIES 387 She tried to do as much as possible for herself, so as not to make work for the nurses, until the moment when her body would no longer support her. On one occasion, when she was still able to get out of bed, a nurse asked her very discreetly if she would like to sit on the commode. Dorothy struggled up, then laughed and said, "Just look at this body!" as she showed us her body, reduced almost to a skeleton. Yet because her body was falling apart, her spirit seemed to radiate and soar. It was as though she were acknowledging that her body had done its job: It was no longer really "her" but something she had inhabited and was now ready to let go of. For all the light and joy that surrounded Dorothy, it was clear that dying was by no means easy; in fact it was very hard work. There were bleak and harrowing moments, but she went through them with tremendous grace and fortitude. After one particularly painful night when she had fallen over, she became afraid that she might die at any moment, all alone, and so she asked for one of us to stay with her all the time. It was then that we began the 24-hour rotation. Dorothy practiced every day, and the purification practice of Vajrasattva was her favorite practice. Rinpoche recommended teachings on death for her to read, which included an essential practice of phowa. Sometimes we would sit together reading passages out loud to her; sometimes we would chant Padmasambhava's mantra; sometimes we would simply rest in silence for a while. So we developed a gentle, relaxed rhythm of practice and rest. There were times when she would doze, and wake up to say: "Oh, isn't this lovely!" When she appeared more energetic and alive, and if she felt like it, we would read passages from the bardo teachings, so that she could identify the stages she would go through. We were all astonished at how bright and alert she was, but she wanted to keep her practice very simple—just the essence. When we arrived to change "shifts" we would always be struck by the peaceful atmosphere in the room, Dorothy lying there, her eyes wide open, gazing into space, even while she was sleeping, and her attendant sitting or quietly reciting mantras. Rinpoche would often telephone to find out how she was getting on, and they talked freely about how near she was to death. Dorothy would speak in a down-to-earth way, and say things like, "Just a few more days to go, Rinpoche." One day the nurses wheeled in the telephone trolley saying, "Telephone call from Amsterdam." Dorothy brightened up immediately, and glowed with pleasure as she took the call from Rinpoche. After she hung up she beamed at us and said he had told her that she should no longer concentrate on reading texts, and that now was the time simply to "rest in the nature of mind; rest in the luminosity." When she was very close to death, and Rinpoche called her for the last time, she told us he had said, "Don't forget us; look us up some time!"