My Father, at the age of 81, was terminally ill with cancer. During his one year’s period of suffering, with my encouragement, he diligently and completely copied the English-translated sūtras (抄经) and treatises by Teacher Shi’an, which included the Amitābha Sūtra《阿弥陀经》 : purelanders.com/sutra. He did so for about two hours non-stop, almost daily, while we his children were at work. The large fonts in the books helped with his reading and copying. (The practice of copying sūtras sincerely, mindfully and repeatedly is to facilitate learning and contemplating of their teachings, to help wisdom to grow. This also creates meritorious virtues.)
My Father had been on the Buddha’s trail in India, and just before his cancer, made a pilgrimage trip to Mount Pǔtuó (普陀山) in China, the holy mountain of Guānshìyīn Bodhisattva (观世音菩萨). He also had a second chance in life when he survived brain haemorrhage surgery in 2017. He was grateful that he survived. I am also convinced that Niànfó (念佛) outside the operation theatre connected him to Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) blessings. I think this helped him to come to terms with ageing, sickness and death, to be able to depart peacefully with our family’s extra care and love. All these conditions offered blessings and inspiration, planting seeds of the Dharma in him, enhancing his faith in Buddhism.
My Father battled cancer with various treatments but when he knew all the test results were negative, he accepted his fate quietly and stoically. During his final stages, he continued to write a page of Āmítuófó’s name almost daily. (This is also a way to practise mindfulness of Buddha.) He prayed towards the sky each time he saw it, always giving thanks to the Buddhas. With gratitude, he always praised the skies for being beautiful. When we went for walks, we would sing Āmítuófó’s name all the way home together. Before sleeping, he would say Āmítuófó’s name too. All this gradually became his second nature.
He was still mobile, able to eat and drink, right until his last two critical days. My family started to take shifts in Niànfó to offer support-chanting (助念). A Dharma friend came to chant together too. (This practice is to guide the dying or deceased to also chant along sincerely, so as to connect to Āmítuófó, to have the best rebirth.) Although in and out of consciousness, he was at peace, with no visible pain or discomfort. My Father’s passing was very peaceful and beautiful. I felt that it was with his great accomplishments of being such a good human being, that he attained such peace.
We continued with eight hours of Niànfó after his passing. My Father’s body was also soft. (This is an auspicious sign, called ‘the body and mind being gentle and soft’ [身心柔软], which reflects happiness of the body and bliss of the mind, possibly enabled by the Buddha’s blessings.)
My family continue to dedicate merits to my Father. We pray he will continue to Niànfó until Āmítuófó receives him to his Pure Land, if not already so. To Teacher Shi’an and all Dharma friends who came to offer support-chanting at my Father’s wake, and all who dedicated merits to him, we express our heartfelt gratitude. May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with my Father G.L. Cheah. May he be blessed by Āmítuófó always.
Námó Āmítuófó: S.A. Cheah (with additional notes by Shen Shi’an)
30 Oct 2020
(Names abbreviated for privacy)