Twenty years ago, Joe, a sculptor, called me as his ather was dying. Over the phone I helped him guide and support his ather as he died. Joe and I became riends and, even ater he moved to Detroit, have stayed in touch.While in Detroit he had been working in the design department o one o the Big Threeauto makers until he recently was downsized out o a job. Last all, when Joe’s mother started dying, he and I began talking and writing requently. Below are some o the emails he sent a month ater his mother died.
—Dale BorglumHi Dale,I have been noticing that when I look at the world without thoughts, I see orms,the lines and shapes o things, as i I am looking at them or the rst time. It is likeI am in nature. here in Detroit in gasoline alley. When I was looking at my motheras she was dying, I saw her and the emptiness, the mystery, all o what I don’tunderstand or know. I experienced a sense o awe and wonder. I have ound thatI have been stopping whatever I am doing lately and just looking and eeling theadumbrations o God. There is nothing to worry about; then I start to worry.The last ew hours that my mother was in the hospital, she kept saying, “Let’sgo,” but the phrase she used in her native dialect implied “Let us go together,” as i it were an order. She motioned me to pull back her bed covers, then she tried to situp but could not. There was nothing that I could do but look at her. Her willulnesswas getting thin and my desire to respond thinner. The silence pierced through herpersistent determination and my dogged obedience to respond. All the anger that Ihad and all the anger that she had, dissipated. The person she was and the personI was went up like a og in a morning sun. There was a silence like the silencebetween two claps o thunder. All we knew was the love between us.I may have told you that I don’t eel like doing anything. I am nding that I justwant to sit. I think o things to do but I am not doing them. It is as i my mind isrunning around trying to do things, but another part o me just wants to be still.Even thought I just want to sit I am not sitting. Maybe I am, but just little sittings.I recall hearing or reading Soygal Rinpoche saying something about doing multipleshort meditations throughout the day. I guess I have been sitting. But I haven’t been.* * *When my mom died, I told youthat I elt that I was solid on bothsides, this ego side and the otherside. I elt as i I were helpless tohelp my mother on this side. On theother side I couldn’t do anythingeither, but I could love her. I washelpless in her presence, but on theother side she didn’t need any help.Death and loss are such creativemoments. Moments o real beautyand excitement. The ego mournsand cries but the spirit jumps up.It almost seems that the greaterthe depth o the loss, the greaterexperience o the other side.Maybe I am not making sense.It is almost three AM here. I couldn’tsleep.* * *I recall reading once, though I don’t recall rom what tradition, that in thebeginning there was nothing and in a corner o that nothingness a space cameinto being and in that space God came into being and the rest ollowed.All the ideas o hurt, joy, conusion exist in that corner and all these ideas o emotions keep bouncing o each other, so I thought that this was all that existed.Part o me knew that this was not so, but part o me was convinced that the ideaso hurt and anger were true and solid. When my mother died I saw that emptinessexisted, and I saw that one o those little constructs o emotions disappeared as i it didn’t exist. Part o me disappeared. One o those constructs o emotion stoppedbeing. Through the gap which was the space that was my mother, I saw emptinesspeer through. I there is a uture lie or a past lie, emptiness still exists. When Itouched into emptiness, it didn’t matter that there was a past or uture, becausethe underside o everything is emptiness. I elt this in my body. I wasn’t trying tounderstand this. I knew it.I elt that I was tired o all the ear that I have elt all my lie. I just didn’t wantto do that any more. I was tired o eeling hurt by my sisters. I could no longer behurt by my mother, she wasn’t there. Even when she was alive she wasn’t there.Emptiness kept looking through. I could see through those tight little constructs o emotions. I eel such a sadness about all o this, but it doesn’t have to do with onlythe loss o my mother. I disappeared as well. I seem to be mourning everything.There is beauty here too. I think that I only see beauty in orms or in nature whenI see emptiness looking back rom the other side.Does this make sense to you? I eel like I am babbling. I wrote this the other dayand I didn’t send it because I elt like I was babbling. I don’t know how to talk aboutthis. A gap opened up when my mother died; the whole world poured through. I sawmysel die when she died. This doesn’t make sense. The rush o emptiness that blewthrough that gap elt like a git. * * *I eel like I know something, but a part o me does not wish to admit that it istrue. It is like being in love with a beautiul woman whom you know is poisonor you, you know that as soon as you touch her she will leave you puking in thegarbage. You know that you should never talk to her again or be in a room with her,but then when you see her you can’t stop rom ripping her clothes o and trying toswallow her body whole.Fear is like that or me. Odd, I never said that beore. I never compared therelationship to ear as a relationship to a seductress. What strange words.When my mother was dying she was kept in a room which had glass walls sothat she could be observed. Once when I was leaving I turned around and saw hermotioning with her hand or me to come back in. She wanted me to help her leave.It was as i her body wanted to stay alive, but another part o her knew it was timeto die. When I looked into her ace, there was ear and rustration there. I elt that Iknew what she was eeling. When she died that gap appeared and emptiness rushedin. That is when I knew that I could drop this emotional tie into ear. The proundityo emptiness dimmed the attraction o ear and rendered it unimportant.So it is strange now that I nd mysel hat in hand, standing on ear’s back porch,knocking on her door, waiting to see i she will want to go out with me or a drink.
Nothing worth doing iscompleted in our lietime,Thereore, we are saved by hope.Nothing true or beautiul or good makes complete sense inany immediate context o history;Thereore, we are saved by aith.Nothing we do, however virtuous,can be accomplished alone.Thereore, we are saved by love.No virtuous act is quite as virtuous rom the standpoint o our riend or oeas rom our own;Thereore, we are saved by the fnal orm o love,which is orgiveness.
Fear is the cheapest roomin the house. I would like to see youliving in better conditions.