Our Buddhist friend Sarah Bird reminded me that Wednesday 21 January 2015 will be the 49th day since Chris Seeley died. In Tibetan Buddhism this marks the end of Bardo – the period between the death and rebirth of a human soul. Whatever our beliefs, it would seem to be a propitious day to light a candle, send Chris our love and wish her well for the next stage of her journey.
The picture above is a traditional representation of the Tibetan Wheel of Life. Chris had one hanging on her bedroom wall; it’s still there. Not a poster, but one she had bought from a family in Nepal who made their living by painting these exquisite images with natural pigments and gold leaf.
She had paid more than they asked and still felt guilty that they had asked so little for several weeks of highly skilled work. I remember her unfurling the delicate roll of paper when she got home and telling me that she had sat in their home and watched them apply the finishing touches to the image with the loving attention of true devotees.
I don’t think Chris believed in the type of literal reincarnation shown in the picture, though she loved the richness of Buddhist symbolism and was drawn to the practice of meditation. She especially enjoyed one particular chant from the Heart Sutra. Our friends Sarah and Julia chanted it with her in hospital in September when she had just been told by the oncologist that there were no further medical options for treatment.
She found it soothing then and perhaps it helped her spirit leave her body when a small group of us chanted it in her presence 24 hours after she died. The original Sanskrit words, believed to be about 1,400 years old, are:
GATÉ GATÉ PÃRAGATÉ
The words have been translated many times though some say they are untranslatable. Here’s a version that feels appropriate. Bon voyage, sweetheart.
GONE, GONE, GONE BEYOND
GONE UTTERLY BEYOND
OH WHAT AN AWAKENING