Having just had a birthday, I am now 78 years old. That means that I have one more birthday before my 70's become my 80's. I watch TV, listen to the radio and read the Sunday papers and inevitably there is mention of some celebrity or other who has just died aged between 75 and 85. There is no escaping the fact that this particular lifetime is nearing its close.
Does this worry me? I would be lying if I said no. I am fairly philosophical about dying but I have a fear of suffering. The idea of a stroke fills me with terror. Every time I get a niggling pain somewhere I think to myself "Is this it?"
Sadly I had a reminder of the impermanence of life when my dear old dog Donut became terminally ill. He began vomiting and was reluctant to go out for walks. He lived for our twice daily walks and would bounce with glee when I reached for his harness and lead. The vet said it was likely something he ate and suggested chamomile tea. He hated chamomile tea and the vomiting continued, so we went back to the vet. He continued to recommend the tea and suggested I squirt it into his mouth through a syringe . Donut got worse so I decided on a second opinion and took him to another vet. He immediately took blood samples and kept him in over night.
When we went back to the vet the next morning there was very bad news. He was suffering fro chronic kidney failure. They were going to keep him in over the weekend with continuing treatment but he warned us not to be too hopeful. On Monday morning he was obviously very ill and distressed. The vet said there was nothing further they could do other than put him gently to sleep.
I couldn't believe how distressed I became and my wife and I hugged each other as we bawled our eyes out. He was just a scruffy old dog who we had got from the Animal Rescue Centre in Mahon. We had had him for just 2 years but my bond with him was so strong and even now, over 6 months later I still feel sad and miss him.
As a Buddhist I am often asked if I believe in reincarnation or re-birth. I try to give a sensible answer but I don't know what happens when you die any more than anyone else. All I have are some gut feelings and I have written about this elsewhere in this blog. I believe our karma plays a part and although I couldn't give a cogent explanation I have a gut feeling that there is more. If we all felt this way it would probably make us more determined than ever to save our planet from destruction. If we knew that there was no escape, that would couldn't walk away from our responsibilities because we are going to keep coming back . Will I meet up with my old friends on 'the other side'? It would be nice to think so but I doubt it. But we must try to leave this lifetime as carefully as we can knowing we have may have a lot of sorting out to do in our next lifetime.