The Mustard Seed

I returned from a run this morning and bemoaned the discomfort in my right leg. As usual I turned on my computer to log my mileage, check email and catch up with my Facebook friends. As I scrolled through the mostly uninteresting things which are posted throughout the night, I came upon a post from a friend. Initially I thought it was one of those generic posts, you know the ones; simply providing an update regarding what the individual had for dinner or what they were watching on television. I read Carlene’s post twice. In her post she shared her brother-in-law had suddenly passed away. The alleged cause of death was a heart attack. The stunning information was his age; he was 42-years of age.

As I read and reread the post I realized the discomfort in my leg no longer appeared to bother me. I am always amazed how we sweat the small stuff. many of us find ourselves lost in the minutia of our daily lives. We forget the importance of our family’s, our health and the other important things which when combined make up our lives. Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…” I am mindful everyday of my need to ensure my focus remains on the important things in my life.

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

A woman who was touched by the death of her son sought the Buddha. She was hopeful he could make her son well again.  The woman, sad, asked the Buddha to bring her son back to her. The Buddha asked the woman to return to her village and retrieve a mustard seed from every member of her community who had not been touched by death. The woman returned to the Buddha and explained she had secured no mustard seeds. As I have learned over the years and through my practice of Buddhism nothing is certain except that death will visit us all.

I returned home from work today and found Nancy in the kitchen talking on the phone. I listened attentively to the conversation, my eyes widening with surprise as my attention was drawn to the words teenager, friend and suicide. Nancy completed the call and I waited for her to sit. As she did she informed me of a young man who had once played little league football with our son. She said, “He committed suicide.” He was 16 years old. I sat in disbelief, my fork in my hand as it twirled my food. My appetite now gone and the wind gone from my gut as if I had taken a punch from the strongest person in the world. I sat for several minutes in wonderment; questions coursing through my mind. Questions without answers. I thought about his family and what they were now left to manage. I thought about the questions they must now have racing through their heads.

January saw the death of close friend. His death had reminded me of the importance of cherishing life. Occasionally I run in a local cemetery. When I complete my run I find myself spending time walking amongst the graves, wondering, thinking. I pay homage to the individuals who have passed before myself. I contemplate my life. Introspection helps me appreciate what I have in life.

I asked numerous questions when my grandfather died. His death was the first major loss I experienced in my life. I wanted and needed answers. There were none. It wasn’t until many years later I realized those answers would never come. Buddhism has taught me death is something we can all expect and at the most unexpected time. The fact that death will eventually find us all is the only certainty.

I have no answers to these questions and have learned not to ask but to accept what I cannot change.



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