Tara’s Lullaby

As mom lay dying, I watch her trying to find a restful position as she twitches and raises her hand to scratch her head. She does not have the strength to move her whole body so she moves what she can. Her voice sounds very thin and raspy as she tries to communicate. I cannot understand most of what she says except, “I love you,” and an occasional, “How about that?” Otherwise, she expresses mostly ‘word salad’.

I begin to chant Green Tara mantra. Mom gives me a quizzical look. I do not think she remembers the prayer so I just say, “This is the language of angels.” She laughs, and I am reminded of her own mom’s laughter. They sound nearly identical. The laughter soon disappears and agitation returns—but I continue chanting.

Eventually mom’s respiration’s softens and she enters a peaceful sleep. I visualize Tara watching over her, dispelling the anxiety of entering unknown territory, the bardo of dying. Tara’s mantra flows from my lips and bathes her with a calming tonal nectar. I physically anoint the crown of her head, indicating a pathway through which her consciousness may depart when she is ready.

The magic only lasts for an hour and the agitation returns. This time her care givers and I look at palliative measures and decide on a low dose of an anti-anxiety medication. I have ideals of not using medication but my bodhicitta suggests it is not about me. She haltingly swallows the pill and over the next twenty minutes mom relaxes into a deep, more restful sleep. I see Tara’s hand in this. Mantra and medicine become one. I am only here to cooperate with the call to relieve suffering in whatever form is necessary.

I continue chanting the mantra and experience a moment in which I see myself as a young boy in my mother’s arms. She is whispering a lullaby to me. Now I am repaying her kindness in the best way I know—extending Tara’s lullaby to her and all beings. Om tare tutare true soha … Noble lady tara, please watch over us. Protect us from all suffering and fear.

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