The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

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The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

388 APPENDIX THREEOnce when the doctor came round to check on how she was andadjust her medication, Dorothy explained, in a disarmingly simpleand straightforward way, "You see, I am a student of Buddhism, andwe believe that when you die you see lots of light. I think I'm beginningto see a few flashes of light, but I don't think I've really quiteseen it yet." The doctors were astounded by her clarity and her liveliness,particularly, they told us, in her advanced stage of illness, whenthey would normally have expected her to have been unconscious.As death came closer, the distinction between day and nightseemed to blur, and Dorothy went deeper and deeper into herself.The color in her face changed and her moments of consciousnessbecame fewer. We thought we could detect the signs of the elementsdissolving. Dorothy was ready to die, but her body was not ready tolet go, because her heart was strong. So each night turned into anordeal for her, and she would be surprised in the morning that shehad made it through to another day. She never complained, but wecould see how she was suffering; we did everything we could tomake her more comfortable, and when she could no longer take fluids,we would moisten her lips. Right up until the last thirty-sixhours, she politely refused any drugs that would interfere with herawareness.Not long before Dorothy died, the nurses moved her. She laycurled up in a fetal position, and even though her body had nowwasted away to almost nothing, and she could neither move norspeak, her eyes were still open and alive, looking directly ahead,through the window in front of her, out into the sky. In the momentjust before she died, she moved, almost imperceptibly, looked Debbiestraight in the eye, and communicated something strongly; it was alook of recognition, as if to say, "This is it," with a hint of a smile.Then she gazed back out at the sky, breathed once or twice, andpassed away. Debbie gently let go of Dorothy's hand, so that shecould continue, undisturbed, through the inner dissolution.The staff at the hospice said that they had never seen anyone sowell prepared for death as Dorothy, and her presence and inspirationwere still remembered by many people at the hospice even a yearafter her death.RICKRick lived in Oregon and had AIDS. He had worked as a computeroperator, and was forty-five when, a few years ago, he came tothe annual summer retreat I lead in the United States, and spoke tous about what death, and life, and his illness meant to him. I wasamazed by how Rick, who had only studied the Buddhist teachingswith me for two years, had taken them to heart. In this brief periodhe had, in his own way, captured the essence of the teachings: devotion,compassion, and the View of the nature of mind, and made

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