Ritual Grief Shopping

By Joyce

May 30th was the 49th day after my mother’s death.   I, who still had the urge to do for my mother, followed the Buddhist grief ritual of reciting the Heart Sutra for 49 days after her death. It is believed that by reciting the Heart Sutra, one can help the mind/spirit of the departed by encouraging them to let go of their earthly attachments and move toward their own enlightenment.  Basically, the sutra speaks to the fundamental emptiness of all phenomena.  Because in my grief my days have felt empty and vague, almost vaporous, I could relate to the contemplation.

But when day 49 came along, I wanted to not just recite the Heart Sutra, I wanted to give my mother one more taste of earthly life before sending her off to the next rebirth or whatever.   So, to lighten things up a bit, I invited my mother’s spirit to join me on a four store food-shopping extravaganza.  She, or my mental hologram of her anyways, came along as I bought specialty foods for our upcoming month long hiking expedition on the John Muir Trail.

When she was alive, she had a true hunter-gatherer’s love and fortitude for shopping so I had no doubt she would be up for this adventure.  In my mind’s eye, I could still clearly see her in each store browsing the aisles, studying the deli selections and searching for bargains.  We ended the day at Costco. It was probably not the best choice to end there because my mother might have been tempted to haunt the food sample carts for the rest of her spiritual life.   How can one really let go when there is so much free food being handed to you?

When our domestic duty was completed, and the contents of the grocery bags were put away in the refrigerator or cabinets, I sat down on the couch, and wept while reciting the Heart Sutra.  Letting her go one more time tore open the temporary sutures that were holding together my own broken heart. I realized there was nothing more I could do for my mother.  The doing was over, but just being with her as a spiritual mother was just beginning. How we move through space and time will never be the same; now we move together as free spirits, whirling through each other’s empty heart space, unencumbered.

I can hear her saying, “Enlightenment…..the Buddhist enlightenment is very nice, but you really should try the Jewish version.”

Video by Claudia Groom, Costco parking lot, Tukwila, WA.

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