Today, I see mom waving to me from her Subaru as she stops for a crosswalk to allow me safe passage. She is about seventy years old and carries herself as a much younger person. I fondly remember mom at this age while I smile to the unknown woman in the car as it passes. Little flashes of memory buried in the hard drive of my alaya (storehouse) consciousness often get stimulated by momentary altered visions of reality.
In this current reality, mom lives in a memory care facility. She is fading away on many levels. She can no longer stand or perform normal bathroom functions without aid. She sleeps most of the time. When I visit, she usually knows me as one of the kids, although she cannot remember my name. When I show her a current photo of herself, she does not recognize it. “Who is that”?, she says.
Mom mostly lives on some other planet, occasionally stopping to land here to eat and share a smile with us. But her being is alive and well. I can see it hidden in her remote gaze and hear it through her surprising comments. I do not spend as much time with her these days but when I visit, she greets me with a familiar, “Hello, honey”. I am never sure whether that endearing monicker is for me, her son, or for my father with whom she sometimes confuses me.
I wonder about the karma of taking so long to fade away, to simply exist for long periods of time. From my side, it is about loving someone without being acknowledged through shared memories, as these have long passed in my mom’s mind. I cannot know mom’s side of it other than to simply be present to her and whatever reality she inhabits. I am growing to understand this is the best we can do with most of our relationships.
If we can be present to one another without assuming a shared reality, the perceived world is a much happier place. We can meet and greet as if we are strangers, learning for the first time the unfolding stories of our lives. Since we continuously reimagine our personal narratives anyway, it is possible to gain insights into the moment rather than measuring our exchanges through past events. We take ourselves lightly and drop the filtering judgments.
The Buddhist practice of getting over ourselves, letting go of clinging to some arbitrary assumption about self and others, is very powerful. It serves all relationships by allowing love to be the only shared experience. Nothing else matters. When ego grasping fades away with pure intention, we are capable of being more fully present. I have aspirations for “I” to fade away before I do—for the benefit of all beings.