Death has not made many intimate inroads into my life so far. I was with one of my grandmothers just before and just after her passing, and my much-loved step-mother's death was a pivotal element in turning me towards Buddhism, in that I started having vivid dreams about death, and was relieved to find something that gave me a complete context to deal with this.
As I have been noting these past few days, death brings ceremony; death brings administration - dealing with hospitals and wills, which many people here have been fully involved with - and death brings reflection. This afternoon I was sitting in a car outside the hospital, waiting for Jerome's body to be signed over, looking at a metal fence and some pine trees through a raindropped windscreen, on a dreary wet winter afternoon. For all the world it was a scene from a moody film. I was trying to be present, patient and mindful, and thinking about death.
We had some wonderful help from people at the Zen Hospice across the street, who provided a vehicle to transport Jerome back to City Center, and helped prepare him for what I would still call the wake, though nobody here has used that word. After dinner, a group of us chanted the Enmei Jukku around his bed when the work was done, and then a little later there was another ceremony, attended by just the right number of people for the space, with the Ten Names of Buddha, the Dai Hi Shin Dharani, and dedications and readings taken from the 'Gyoji Kihan', led by Abbot Steve. Now people are sitting with him, as I shall soon.