My daughter came home from the gym and said, “I saw a truck with a large Confederate flag and Trump signs all over it. Why do we have to live here? Why did you move us from San Francisco?”
I chuckled. “Actually, Mesa, AZ is more like most of the country than not. In San Francisco, we lived in a bubble. And even that place has changed a ton in the past 15 years.”
“I want to live in a bubble!” She whined.
I get it.
It reminded me of the time I came home crying after a particularly grueling day of racial taunts in elementary school. As a 100% ethnically Korean-American girl growing up in Davenport, Iowa in the 70s, life could be challenging. Each day, someone called me chink or told me to go back where I came from.
My father reacted sternly to my tears: “Caroline, life is going to show you much harder times. Don’t be weak and cry.” His jaw grew hard and his face turned red.
“Go. Wash your face.”
And we never spoke of racism again.
And I’ve yet to find the answer to the question I had: “How do you convert racists into kind human beings?”
This prompt brought me to the source of our strongest emotions of late: grieving. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer on April 1st and passed away on July 11th. In that short span of time, I stayed with my parents a lot in Georgia, away from my desert home in Arizona. The colors of the lush foliage surrounded me as I took walks as breaks from caregiving. Friendly neighbors smiled and waved and I felt welcome and an unexpected sense of peace.
“With the contemplation of the impermanence of the human form, something very deep and peaceful opens up inside you. That is why I enjoy going to cemeteries. When you accept the impermanence, out of that comes an opening within, which is beyond form. That which is not touched by death, the formless, comes forward as you completely accept the impermanence of all forms. That’s why it is so deeply peaceful to contemplate death.
If someone close to you dies, then there is an added dimension. You may find there is deep sadness. The form also was precious, although what you loved in the form was the formless. And yet, you weep because of the fading form. There too, you come to an acceptance – especially if you are already familiar with death, you already know that everything dies – then you can accept it more easily when it happens to somebody close to you. There is still deep sadness, but then you can have the two dimensions simultaneously – the outer you weeps, the inner and most essential is deeply at peace. It comes forward almost as if it were saying “there is no death”. It’s peace.”