A few days ago I momentarily looked at my bag of 10 buddhas as I grabbed my car keys to head off to the hospital to see Dad. I realised there was no way to complete my planned pilgrimage walk into the city that day and also probably no time to have the meaningful conversations that often led to offering up a Buddha.
The ‘perfect’ care home option for Dad had fallen through and we needed to keep looking.Anyone who has gone through this process will know that there is not much time for anything else. I grabbed the Buddha bag anyway and headed off.
Hospitals need patients to move out of beds as soon as possible so the time limit to visit care homes and choose a place for Dad was punishing.
The day before, I had sat with my head in my hands at a coffee break with my sister and keenly felt my limitations. Abandoning my friends at the Buddhist Centre to handle 100 visiting school children on their own and not being around to support the team getting the upcoming retreat ready compounded a sense of not being big enough to hold it all.
And I know from previous experience that not having time to acknowledge deep sadness can make everything else seem like walking through mud.
How fortunate then that the hospital social worker assigned to us was an angel.
It truly felt that way to have someone willing to spend time helping navigate the demanding and often indecipherable forms and other paperwork that attaches itself to you at each place visited.
I really appreciated her irreverent sense of humour, piercing honesty and the refreshing mix of practicality and huge heart. She just plainly said the words she could obviously sense were sitting stunned in my own heart. All I had to do was nod in agreement.
At least I had the energy for that.
She knew I had only days to get important paperwork in for another ‘perfect place’ as I was about to lead a retreat and would not be available for a week.
Maybe because of my kesa around my neck or perhaps the mention of the retreat but at our last visit she began to tell me that her husband’s memorial ceremony had been held at the large stupa at a Buddhist monastery an hour out of Melbourne- his plaque was there too under a beautiful crepe myrtle tree. This woman’s connections with Buddhist places of practice and her generosity in supporting dharma work and children in Nepal unfolded as I sat on my dad’s hospital bed. What an unexpected and magical connection!
The effort and tiredness momentarily disappeared as I opened my bag of 10 Buddhas and asked her to choose one. Her eyes immediately fell on a beautiful, standing Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
It had been a gift from a Karunadhi, a friend at a retreat centre where I had lived in Wales. A place where I had felt my heart had been at its biggest and all things were possible.
So with this delightful memory now very much alive I laughed as Dad interrupted us to tell me to “stop gas bagging” and go and find him a bed!
PS It was also very humbling to find a donation for my pilgrimage in my account from this wonderful person later that night.