Eff you Impermanence!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been rather cryptic about some goings on in my life. Until now, I had to be sure a certain family member was aware of the situation before talking about it, and from what I know, they also know.

We, as Buddhist practitioners, are well aware that all things are impermanent, even those we love. We also all struggle with this impermanence, especially when it comes to those we love.

A quote I have tried to live by lately is one from Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi.

When you are strong and healthy,
You never think of sickness coming,
But it descends with sudden force
Like a stroke of lightning.

When involved in worldly things,
You never think of death’s approach;
Quick it comes like thunder
Crashing round your head.
~ Milarepa

In the past few years I’ve had some important people in my life pass away, my grandmother, my best friend, and various other acquaintances I’ve had through the years. While it has gotten easier and easier with each one, the affect they’ve had on my life has not been forgotten, nor will it. There are things I do each day that remind me of those that have come before me, and passed along the way.

Last year my family was given some unfortunate news, my father was diagnosed with cancer. This is all on top of the agent orange exposure he is still dealing with from being in Vietnam, as well as having a tainted blood transfusion that keeps him on medication to treat the ailment. He was treated by a doctor, and he recommended surgery. So, my father opted for the surgery and it was deemed a success, they cut out the cancer.

Last summer, 2009, he came up from FL to work and make some extra cash and stayed in our carriage house. He had lost a lot of weight, but overall he seemed to be ok, minus some tiredness here and there. He did some projects, he’s a builder and custom wood designer, from the old school.

We got to spend a good amount of time together, and it was great. Him and I would butt heads the whole time I was growing up. I was the typical, rebellious teenager. You know, thought I was invincible and didn’t have to listen to my parents, did what the hell I wanted no matter who it hurt.

Well, fast forward a few years, and that guy exists no more. My father and I were able to start talking about personal philosophies and practices. He mentioned to about an event he thought we should check out, it was the first time I met Chas Dicapua from IMS, where I ended up doing my first three day retreat, which Chas co-led. Anyway, it was crazy to be sitting, quietly in contemplation next to the man I thought at one point and time was my adversary. Like I said before, my teenage years could have been easier.

After the summer, he went back to FL and all seemed right with the world. My family was to be shaken again though. He was doing good for a bit, but during a check-up they found that the cancer had spread. He would need to have surgery again to remove it. Due to all the other stuff going on, and his age, he is unable to handle that trauma again. So they’ve tried some sort of pill, it’s new and very experimental, something to the tune of multiple thousand dollars per pill, and he has to take 4 of them a day. Yeah, luckily the VA picks up the tab, one of the very few things they have done for him (and other military members, but that’s another tirade).

The pill was never guaranteed to cure him, but more so meant to extend his life a bit. It has worked ok for a while, but from the reports my mother gives, there is not much time left.

He and my mother came up from FL this past weekend to attend my brother’s wedding and see the family. The whole weekend felt like this may very well be the last visit we have with him. It’s hard to be optimistic when you know what the outcome is going to be.

I’d say it’s easier knowing the things I know, about impermanence, but it hasn’t been easy. I dropped them off at the airport this morning, and not all  the lyrics are spot on, but when I hit scan on the radio Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” started up. Any sense of optimism disappeared and impermanence rang loudly through my mind. His time is coming, the inevitable spares no one.

So, I hope to continue to work through this, as best as anyone can. This post is not meant to garner any sympathy, I just hoped to shed some light on what was going on and wanted to spare you the crypticity (yes, I just made that word up).


  1. Hey bro, if you ever want to chat about it, feel free to email me. I went through a similar situation with my dad back in 2001. I hate when people say “I know how you feel” so I will just say “I can relate” and if you need to vent, hit me.


  2. My Mother died over ten years ago of a drug overdose and my Father is about to die from cancer due to years of careless habits. He’s in and out the hospital, bed-ridden on an oxygen tank, vacillating between lungs collapsing and heart attacking. I’ve had virtually no relationship to speak of with either of these people because of the choices they’ve made in their lives. Damn hippies.

    I tell you this so honestly, because: honestly: You’re lucky every chance you get to drop them off at the airport. Enjoy each and every time.

    Be well, Sir… _/\_

  3. Wow Anoki, sorry to hear.

    Thanks for your comment and offering a peek into your life, my love and thoughts are with you my friend!

    Your wisdom always cuts through the bs, thank you!

  4. thanks to you both for the comments. Doing our best is all we can do right? It’s hard, but life’s adversity is navigable if we are willing to take the helm and forge on. Easier said then done though…

  5. Nate thanks for opening the door a little bit to what’s going on. May you and your family find peace even in this. And Shane – thanks for the comment. I am pretty much in the same place — my dad cannot be long for this world, and along with the impermanence, there’s the not-knowing at all what that will be like. We are all doing our best.

  6. hey boo, yeah i feel ya. sorry it’s up in your face right now. i’m an only child with older parents and i see the years march across them as they march across me. i know what’s coming and i’m trying not to dread it. i think about their deaths often when i’m on the cushion. i also started volunteering at a hospice to better practice being around death. No matter what i’ve practiced, it will never ever blunt the impact of the real thing with my parents. i think the pain of the loss will be a reminder to me to remember what they taught me thru life and their living.

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