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  • Writer's pictureMetta

Mustard Seeds

Kisagotami, in her grief over losing her child, went to the Buddha. Deep in the suffering of her loss, desperate for a different outcome, she asked the Buddha for medicine to bring her lost child back to life. The Buddha instructed her to go to all the nearby houses, and collect one mustard seed from any house where people dying was not known. She came back empty handed.

Marty was 20 years old. She was vibrant, and saw only kindness in the world. She made friends with everyone she met. She cared deeply.

Knowing more about her I get the feeling that everywhere was her home.

She took the wrong train, the wrong night. Someone in deep suffering harmed her and took her life. It was Christmas eve.

She was a long way from where she started. She was a long way from her family.

But I get the feeling that everywhere was her family.

Her grave is across the world. Sometimes deep in meditation I go there, and sometimes deep in meditation or in dreams I see her. I get this feeling she is at peace. There is a wave of calm when, for that brief moment, I see her.

But sometimes I am on the platform, and she is getting on the train, and I try and stop her. And she gets on. And it repeats over and over. I feel a deep longing in my whole body. And it’s like she passes through my hands like water vapor.

She died 3 years before I was born. Like a deep dye, my whole family was dipped in grief and trauma. The empty places, the places of something missing, the longing, the shock, of the memories.

When indigenous women share about their missing sisters, how many women of their communities have disappeared where they don’t even know what happened, how many women have been deeply harmed, I feel a scream inside me. A wailing cry. The Mothers that lost their children. The Sisters that lost their Sisters, their best friends, their deeply loved ones. The way a whole family sinks in that horrible loss. I can’t speak for what someone else feels, but I feel what it feels like in my own body to have lived this - and that rises to the surface, and I want it to stop for Indigenous communities.

My hand comes up empty of mustard seeds. There is no house that does not know dying. Impermanence is the rule.

There are many houses that have been hurt with this particular kind of loss, where a life is taken by another. There must be more done, because this kind of loss doesn’t have to happen.

I hold both. My empty hands. I hold how many know loss of one kind or another. The way we are all connected in sorrow but also joy in this world. The ache, the longing. The need for change, for the harm to stop.

I’m going to talk to an old friend of Marty’s soon. My Aunt said that Marty and I would have been such good friends, we would have really enjoyed each other’s company. I can continue to get to know her. I can know her more, and not have the place in my mind be just about the end of her life. I think Marty would be furious if I wasn’t living life and enjoying life, the life that I’ve gotten to have which is already more than twice the span of hers. I recently got more pictures of her, and studied them closely.

I don’t have a succinct ending here. Because this is a journey that keeps unfolding as I untangle threads. I gently uncover the things not spoken, untangle the things heard, put together the partial rememberings. It's like this when a family can’t talk much about something this painful. I’m knitting together something new as I untangle all this.

Early Buddhist robes were made from discarded rags, sometimes from the charnel grounds, dipped in a new color. The way the Earth is, the constant becoming and unbecoming and becoming, no end and no beginning. The way new things unfold from what came before.

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