Lion's Roar

Life, Death, and Love

NURSING HOMES MAY BE the closest thing we in the West have to the charnel grounds of traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture, but with some important differences. In Tibet, charnel grounds are rocky, out-of-the-way places where people place their dead to decompose out in the open, and they visit them to be reminded of impermanence and the certainty of death. In the West, nursing homes are where we place our near-dead, and we don’t want to visit them. In the West, we deny death, resist impermanence, and run like hell in the other direction to avoid the ugliness of extreme old age.

Most nursing home residents have reached a state where getting out of bed, going to the toilet alone, and seeing, hearing, and communicating are beyond their body. Their minds and memories have left them to one degree or another.

To the uninitiated, the frail and elderly are boring. They sometimes smell. And they’re so very ponderous about everything. They can’t keep up. Of course, we can’t slow down.

My attitude was no different.

My mother and I did not have an open, loving relationship—more of a coldly respectful one with a bucket list of unspoken resentments and

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