[20] My Brother’s Peaceful Passing Amidst Support-Chanting

Background Information

My brother, Toh Tong Chye, 47 years of age, collapsed in our Mother’s house on 1 March 2014 (Saturday) at around 1pm. By the time the ambulance arrived, there was already lapse of an hour with shortage of oxygen for his brain. When I saw him, he was in coma in an ICU room at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. At noon the next day, came news that his blood was pressure deteriorating quickly. We were told that he was in the process of dying.

Support-Chanting Begins

My Buddhist Aunt summoned us to chant Amitutofo, which we did continuously. After 5 hours of chanting, I felt uneasy, and sent an SOS message to Pureland Practice Fellowship (PPF) friends. Around 6pm, my Mother started experiencing intense bodily and mental discomfort, that compelled her to leave the ICU room. She needed a natural open space to feel relief. I was supposed to wait for PPF friends to come. However, I suddenly felt a lack of energy with extreme hunger, and had to urgently find food. Thus, I had to leave the room too. I believe all these happened for a reason. Perhaps, it was effected by Amituofo’s supreme compassion and wisdom, to prepare us for what had to take place to better help Tong Chye.

Additional Support-Chanting

Laoshi (Shi’an), Zly, Khuan Heng and Albert (from PPF) arrived to offer support-chanting when I was not in the room. Only my Aunt was there, still chanting Amituofo, which they then did together. About 10 minutes into the chanting, they witnessed Tong Chye’s left hand subtly move up to his waist level, gently forming a fist. Minutes later, he lightly let it go, which seemed to represent release. That was 7:39pm, the time of his passing, (due to collapse of ventricular fibrillation). Can someone brain dead control his limbs? The movement was amazing. When my Aunt recalled that very moment, she said her eyes were closed throughout the chanting. However, there was a sudden energy that made her open her eyes to see what happened.

Guidance For The Deceased

As suggested by Laoshi, I advised Tong Chye to let go of his suffering, to chant Amituofo, until Amituofo comes to bring him to his Pure Land, where there is no more suffering, where there is only bliss. Although he may experience pain, he should not think about the pain, and just focus on chanting Amituofo’s name sincerely with us.

Some Obstacles

After his passing, we negotiated with the staff nurse in charge to leave the body untouched for 8 hours, or at least for a few hours. However, she said it was not possible, due to the need to clean the body and remove medical apparatus on the body and face, before the approaching change of shift. There was no choice but to ask for minimal and only gentle contact. We did not want any embalmment to minimise disturbing the body too, as the consciousness might still be within, but was told that there were some cancer cells in the stomach, which required a jab to slow the process of decay.

Blissful Smile

While waiting for the processing of documents, we continued to chant Amituofo as much as we could. When the staff nurse returned to ask for our permission to remove the apparatus, I took a look at Tong Chye’s expression after it was done. I was taken by surprise, as I noticed a very gentle and calm smile on his face. Thinking it could be my hallucination, I quickly confirmed with Khuan Heng and Laoshi that it was genuine.

Supple Body

That night, Tong Chye’s body was sent to a funeral parlour. On Monday morning, when his body arrived at the void deck where the wake was to be held, I took the opportunity to ask the staff who dressed him before putting him into the casket if his body was stiff, to which they replied that it was ‘Good, okay!’

More Support-Chanting

Many PPF members came to the Jieyuan (结缘) chanting on the first night of the wake. On the second night, some monks were engaged to chant 3 sets of Amitabha Sutra. On the third night, more PPF members came to assist. There was an initiative to get a chanting group to come too, which used structured steps to guide the deceased using simple language as the deceased was not Buddhist. Other than Nianfo, as family members, we acted on behalf of the deceased to chant Chanhui (忏悔: repentance), Qingsheng (请圣: invite the enlightened to come and guide the deceased). We also initiated taking of the Three Refuges (皈依) to provide more power of guidance (引导力),and chanting of the Four Great Vows (四弘誓愿) to share more power of merits (功德力) with Tong Chye.

Lessons Learnt

[1] Death can come suddenly and without warning or time to prepare. As such we should all Nianfo regularly (daily) and diligently to better prepare ourselves. We should also share about Nianfo with more family members and friends, as everyone is running out of time. (Dying in a hospital allows less control of the body but we were able to make the best of the constraints.)

[2] Tong Chye had some aversion about Nianfo about a year ago. However, it was with Nianfo that his final moments were peaceful. Unless there are signs of aversion even during the last moments, we should practise Nianfo to help the otherwise helpless. Karmic affinity is inconceivable. Although Tong Chye disliked Nianfo earlier, he received support-chanting in time. The only way to know if a person has enough good karma to be helped is to simply help. Pondering over Tong Chye’s connection to PPF, it suddenly struck me that it could have been established when my daughter who attended 3 past PPF sessions wrote his name on the board for sharing of merits with him for speedy recovery. (The truth is, true and total recovery is attained when Pure Land is reached, where there will be no more sickness and death.)

[3] The inspiration to witness the hand move (when it was medically impossible) to express release could be a skilful means through which Amituofo empowered Tong Chye to show his relief from suffering, to assure and inspire us. The definite facial smile and suppleness of body are some classic auspicious signs of having attained a good rebirth, possibly in Amituofo’s Pure Land. This is linked to Vow #33 of Amituofo, who promised tenderness (suppleness and bliss) of body and mind when there is connection to his blessings (via Nianfo). It is not at all easy for those with sudden deaths to depart with a blissful expression without Nianfo practice.

[4] It was touching to experience the unrelenting warm and wholesome support of PPF members. Especially those in the ICU, whose support-chanting and advice really helped, as my family members were not in the right frame of mind. As Laoshi taught, as the deceased’s consciousness can read our minds, support-chanting has very positive energy if it is done with the clear intention to help the deceased. I thought this was unlike support-chanting done by some family members who lack understanding, who might be easily emotionally disturbed at times.

[5] The close encounter with Amituofo, though not in sight, was felt. He is there, ever ready to help, on standby mode. Once we are ready, his assistance manifests magnificently! Another incident illustrates this… I came home at 2:30am to bathe, so that I could return to attend to the wake till the end of the funeral possession the next day. There was this one empty lot available for me to park for an hour, which was never possible at this time on other days. I was mindful hoping then, that because of my industrious contribution to facilitate the wake, I would be blessed with a parking lot.

[6] The entire event strengthened not only my faith towards Amituofo, my children and nephews became determined to take the Three Refuges and commit to the Five Precepts on March 16 too. My Aunt, who is an ardent Buddhist, who can recite sutras very well, who earlier did not think that chanting of Amituofo was sufficient, initiated to attend a PPF session. It never crossed my mind to ask her earlier, as Laoshi mentioned that only past Pure Land class participants can join (as PPF sessions go beyond the basic foundations covered in class). She joyfully joined one session, during which I shared the above.

May this testimonial encourage more to Nianfo, and may the merits go to Tong Chye. Let us be mindful of Amituofo, and give rise to the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration and Practice to be born in Pure Land. 阿弥陀佛! Thank you very much!

– Sis. Janet Toh
(Edited with additional notes by Shen Shi’an)

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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