How do you all feel about separation at death from your loved ones?
I am so sad and frightened for the deaths that I have to face in the future ( my own and my relatives)..... It is easy to think about someone else's funeral etc, but when it happens to you, it is hard to deal with, specially mentally. I don't know how I will deal with the fact that the person that I loved/a close family friend is no longer with me, but when I watch the birthday party clips, photographs etc..... hmm...I really don't know how I would tackle the mental sadness/distress.
Here's a story from a collection of 500 tales from the Suttanta Pitaka, published by Buddhist Council Publishing, Thailand.
I'll try to translate and summarise from the Thai text:
In a village in Parasi City,the Bodhisatta was born as a bramin living with a happy family.
There were six members in the family. There were the Bodhisatta, his wife, his son, his daughter-in-law, his daughter and a servant. They lived very happily and serenely. The Bodhisatta consistently taught everyone to behave wholesomely, to follow the five precepts, to donate when available and able, and to be mindful at all time. These was because their good healths and their status were not permanent, and, thus, they should not cling to them. He told them to be mindful against unwholesome deeds and to see deaths as a normal becoming. Therefore, they sholuld not be careless day and night, and maintain perseverance in doing good deeds and to remain within the precepts.
One day, the Bodhisatta and his son went farming. His son began clearing the perimeter and created a bonfire with dried leaves. The smoke seeped into a termite mound where a snake was hiding. Thinking danger was closed by, the snake came out and bit the son who eventually died.
When the Bodhisatta saw his son fell and rushed over. Knowing it was too late to save his son, he carried his son and placed the body under a tree. He covered the body with a cloth and continued to finish his farming chores without feeling any sadness. While farming, he reminded hiself that "all conditioned things are not constant, when there's birth, there's death, and all things will eventually cease." When the neighbours came by, the Bodhisatta asked them to inform his wife so she can make necessary preparations.
When the wife knew, she informed the rest of the family and instructed them to dress in white, arrange the flowers and make dinner. All the while, none of the family displayed any sadness.
After dinner, they all raised the son's body onto the funeral pyre and cremated the body.
A Deva from heaven saw what was happening and descended to earth.
"What are you doing?", asked the Deva.
"I'm cremating my son" replied the Bodhisatta.
"Your son, looks like you're grilling some meat. Don't you love your son?" exclaimed the Deva.
"He was a son that we all loved" the Bodhisatta said.
"Then why aren't you crying?" the Deva continued.
"Our son is already dead. Like a snake shredding its skin, his body has become useless. To be creamated, therefore, we don't feel any sadness about him. He has already gone to where he should be" explained the Bodhisatta.
The Deva turned to the mother and asked who she was.
"I'm his mother" she said, "He was the one I truly loved and nurtured with my milk until he was grown up."
"As a mother, you should have a softer spot than a father. Why aren't you sad?"
"Yes, I do. But when he came into this world, I didn't invite him. He came on his own. When he left this world, I didn't give permission. He came and he left. His body didn't feel sad for his relatives but remained behind to be cremated. Therefore, I don't feel any sadness about him. He has already gone to where he should be" explained the mother.
The Deva then turned to the daughter and asked who she was.
"I'm his younger sister" she said.
"Brother and sister are often very closed, Why aren't you crying?"
"If I cried, it would be for no purpose. Nothing would improve. I would dehydrate and become skinny from crying and sorrow, causing worries among my relatives and friends. Therefore, I don't feel any sadness about him. He has already gone to where he should be." explained the daughter.
"And you, what is the dead man to you?" asked the Deva while looking at the daughter-in-law.
"I'm his wife" she said.
"Your husband is dead and you don't even cry?" exclaimed the Deva.
"What is the point of sorrow and sadness when things cannot be returned to normal. It would be like a child crying for the stars in the sky. His body is burning, the relatives are not sad. He has already gone to where he should be." explained the daughter-in-law.
"And you, you're not a relative are you?' The Deva directed the question to the servant.
"I'm not a relative but I'm like a relative. He was my boss" she said.
"Then I assume he was a terrible boss to you" the Deva went on.
"Oh no! He was kind, helpful and tolerant. He was like a son to me."
"Then how come you didn't shed a tear?" the Deva persisted.
" His death is like a broken pot. It cannot be put back together. My boss' body is burning, the relatives are not sad. He has already gone to where he should be." explained the servant.
After having heard everyone,the Deva was overwhelmed with admiration. He said,
"Your mindfulness towards death is impressive. They deserve my honouring and faithful trust. From now on, you will no longer work hard. I will place treasures inside your house, for you who have conducted youselves within the precepts and performing habitual donation. May you all live without being careless or heedless."
End of story.
I hope this story from the Suttanta Pitaka helps.