Ajahn Sumedho recounts the joyful unfolding of a deep appreciation for his teacher and parents.
The last time I went to see my father, I decided that I would try to get some kind of warmth going between us before he died. In the last decade of my father’s life he was quite miserable and became very resentful. He had terrible arthritis and was in constant pain, and he had Parkinson’s disease. Eventually he had to be put in a nursing home. He was completely paralyzed. He could move his eyes and talk, but the rest of his body was rigid. He was resentful of what had happened to him because before he had been a strong, independent man.
When I saw him, his body needed to be stimulated, so I said, “Let me massage your leg.” “No, no, you don’t need to do that,” he said. “You’ll get bedsores, because you really have to have your skin massaged. I would really like to do it.” He still refused, but I could tell he was considering it. “I think it’ll be a good thing,” I told him. “So you’d really like to do it?” he asked me. “Yes.”
I started massaging his feet, his legs, his neck, shoulders, hands, and face; he really enjoyed the physical contact. It was the first time he had been touched like that. Physical contact is quite meaningful, it’s an expression of feeling. And I began to realize that my father really loved me, but didn’t know how to say it. I had this great sense of relief and immense gratitude.
Ajahn Sumedho is the Abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Centre in England and the most senior Western disciple of the late Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah
AJAHN CHAH ON PARENTS:
Sometimes when teachings are given on birth, aging, illness, and death, people aren’t pleased. Especially in the West, when you talk about this, people get up and walk away. They don’t want to get old. So when people become old, they are abandoned.
In the Western countries this seems to be the custom, to discard the old folks so the youngsters can get on with their lives. Of course the youngsters will get old too, and then they will be discarded in their turn. When we are young, we should look at and reflect on old people. This is karma, isn’t it? I tried to explain this to the Westerners, that if you discard people, you will also be discarded. When we are old, we should think about young people. When we see old people, we should think about young people. They are connected, like links of a chain.
—Translated from the Thai by Paul Breiter
Image courtesy Paul Breiter