Before he retired, my third Uncle did not even hold incense, unless he really had too. He disliked its smell, and the eating of vegetarian food. (Three years ago, when he met a group of vegetarian friends, they always invited him to eat with them.) When he visited his daughter Pauline, he saw her everyday devotion to Buddhism, with her doing of morning and evening chanting homework. She would bring him to a temple for prayers with her children too.
In February, his test results showed that he had lung cancer. His wife, my third Aunt, asked me for help. I advised him to go vegetarian, and to be mindful of Āmítuófó’s name for at least 15 minutes in the morning and evening, gradually increasing the duration when comfortable. I always texted him on special holy days, like Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ birthdays too, for him to chant more to create more merits.
After his second treatment session, he was in bad shape. When Pauline returned from overseas, she ensured that he replaced ‘Aiyo’ (or ‘Aiya’) (as in the exclamation of pain) with ‘Āmítuófó’, to see pain or discomfort as a reminder to be even more sincere of Buddha. On 20 November, an ambulance was called and the response team tried to resuscitate him, with no response. My Aunt informed me, and I immediately instructed that his body must not be touched for eight hours (as there will be magnified pain if his consciousness is still within), that there should be non-stop reciting of Āmítuófó until the time has passed.
While the police came to check, Pauline tried not to let them touch his body too soon. We had to wait for an inspecting officer and doctor to check before we could further ‘handle’ the body. (For those already deceased before an ambulance is called, notification of death can be done after completion of support-chanting.) While waiting, we continued to recite earnestly. I went to the home altar and prayed to Guānyīn Bodhisattva for help too. (Actually, continuing sincere recitation of Āmítuófó’s name as a direct prayer will do, as he also has perfect compassion, and is the Bodhisattva’s teacher, thus connected to her.)
After the checking was done, we covered his body with the Rebirth Blanket (往生被), put Blessed Sand Of Golden Light (金光明沙) and Mantra Wheel (咒轮) papers on him. As his mouth was open due to tube insertion earlier, a Dharma pill (consecrated with chanting) could be put in for extra blessings. (As this is also touching of the body, on the inside, ideally, it should have been done earlier, when still alive.) With three more Buddhist friends, the five of us continued reciting of Āmítuófó’s name.
When Uncle’s mouth closed naturally to look more peaceful, I was delighted. At the same time, as mentioned by both of his children later, they smelled fragrance. (This is an auspicious sign of having at least a good rebirth, possibly the best, in Pure Land.) When we finished chanting by 5 am, we dedicated merits to Uncle. I also messaged my first Sister-in-law to help dedicate merits to him, after she completed her daily morning practice. While she was reciting Āmítuójīng (阿弥陀经) at her own house, she smelled fragrance too.
Later at the wake, for three times, she smelled a gentle breeze with fragrance there. The undertaker mentioned that Uncle’s limbs were flexible (i.e. soft and supple) when they changed his attire. (This is an auspicious sign, of having peace and bliss, of body and mind, with possible birth in Pure Land.) I also requested Bro Shi’an for one of Pureland Practice Fellowship’s support-chanting sessions, to further ensure my Uncle will reach Pure Land to be with Āmítuófó. With everyone’s efforts, including my Uncle’s, may he reach Pure Land!
15 December, 2020