Sunday, January 20, 2008


The following is a quotation from the site entitled ‘The Buddhist Concept of Impermanence.

Impermanence and change are thus the undeniable truths of our existence. What is real is the existing moment, the present that is a product of the past, or a result of the previous causes and actions. Because of ignorance, an ordinary mind conceives them all to be part of one continuous reality. But in truth they are not.
The various stages in the life of a man, the childhood, the adulthood, the old age are not the same at any given time. The child is not the same when he grows up and becomes a young man, nor when the latter turns into an old man. The seed is not the tree, though it produces the tree, and the fruit is also not the tree, though it is produced by the tree.
The concept of impermanence and continuous becoming is central to early Buddhist teachings. It is by becoming aware of it, by observing it and by understanding it, one can find a suitable remedy for the sorrow of human life and achieve liberation from the process of anicca or impermanence.

The ‘breaking up’ of a deceased parent’s home and the apportionment of his worldly possessions brings home the reality of impermanence in a way that few other events do. Of course there are similar circumstances, some event more wrenching: the destruction of a home by bombing, earthquake, fire or tsunami would be examples, but I have been blessed not to experience those. The breaking up, I experienced last week.

Even though my parents and I were estranged for some years, I still viewed their home, with its familiar possessions, as an anchor; as a secure nest to which one could return. It seemed permanent. When they moved from our family home, to a smaller retirement home and then to an even smaller apartment in an assisted living community, traditional possessions remained. There was the leather topped desk, the “ancestor” portrait with its gilded frame, the civil war epaulettes, the states of green winged horses, the tennis trophies, still shined regularly, and much more. After father died, we returned to his apartment for the night and things seemed unchanged. It was as if he had just left for a short visit and would return shortly. I left, on Sunday afternoon, with my memories intact.

When I returned the following Wednesday, the tranquil ambience had been replaced by chaos. The three small rooms were filled with siblings, a packing crew, labeled packing boxes and debris. The walls had been stripped. The prized possessions of decades had become ‘stuff’ to be sorted, allocated, packed and loaded. Packing proceeded apace as we dealt with other formalities and logistical imperatives that accompany a death - reading the will, arranging the memorial service, obtaining necessary documents from the courthouse, renting two U-Haul trucks and loading them. By Friday, we were mostly done, though half a truckload still remained, to be picked up later. My siblings hit the road. I was alone the the empty shell of my father’s apartment, with more than six decades of memories.

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