My Gugu (Aunt) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease with slightly high blood pressure more than five years ago. She was then still able to eat and bathe by herself, but with slower movements. About two years ago, when she was 76 years old, I passed her a string of 108 prayer beads. Thinking that she might be more familiar and affiliated with Guānyīn Púsà (观音菩萨), I encouraged recitation of her name, to chant a round with the beads immediately after waking each morning. I always checked to ask if she practised accordingly. She would say she did, that if she forgot to do so, she would catch up later in the day.
In April last year, she developed high fever and was unable to recover after a few days on Panadol. I decided to bring her to the hospital. As it was during the circuit breaker period, it did not allow unnecessary visits. I was told to go home and wait for a call after admitting her. The next day, the doctor informed that she was diagnosed with COVID-19. It was very shocking as she had not stepped out of home since January. Our whole family was also placed on a 14-day quarantine at home. We also all cleared the swab test. (Could she had contracted the virus between leaving home on the way to the hospital?)
For almost two months, I was unable to see her. There were only calls informing me about her situation. She nearly could not make it through. I cried and requested the doctors to try their best to help her pull through. During this period, I also chanted the Medicine Buddha mantra, and with my other Buddhist practices, dedicated merits to her. (Note 1: Āmítuófó’s name or Guānyīn Púsà’s name can also be recited for blessings to expedite healing where possible.)
She finally tested free from the virus and was transferred to a normal ward in June. Around this time, the hospital started to allow visits at certain hours. From then on, for her entire stay, she was put on tube-feeding through her nose as she was unable to control her swallowing with Parkinson’s disease. Her muscle control had become much weaker after the virus attack. She was not allowed to get out of bed without help due to risk of falling. She also had lung infection now and then and developed fever.
Once, I checked if she still recited Guānyīn Púsà’s name. She told me that all along, she recited Āmítuófó’s name (阿弥陀佛) and Guānyīn Púsà’s name together. I was very glad, and to help her further and easier focus, told her she can continue with only the Āmítuófó’s name. I also showed her the below picture of Āmítuófó coming to inspire her.
During her stay, she frequently encountered ‘unseen’ beings, and could not clearly differentiate them from human beings. On one occasion, she said she (i.e. perhaps her consciousness) was tied up and brought to a big car park nearby, with many unseen beings surrounding her. She suddenly remembered to Niànfó (念佛) and shouted Āmítuófó’s name once. Immediately, she was untied, as the beings fell to the ground and could not move. After a while, they stood up and ran away. She also said that an ‘unseen doctor’ would visit and say he wanted to marry her, but that when I was present, he would not come. I told her not to promise him anything, and to always just simply continue to Niànfó. (Note 2: These disturbing unseen beings can be regarded as karmic creditors [冤亲债主], who might be easier encountered when physically weak. The first incident is very significant as it clearly shows the great and instant protective power of sincere Niànfó, even if just once.)
Through the 8 months of hospitalisation, she had a difficult and painful time, before finally passing on in early December. When I reached the hospital, I went near her body to read the ‘Guidance For The Deceased’ (往生者开示), which Bro. Shi’an passed to me earlier, whispering into her ears, to Niànfó until she sees Āmítuófó, and to follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land. (At first, due to some interruptions and being emotional, it was difficult to read the text completely. But I followed Bro. Shi’an’s advice to keep trying until it is done properly.) After following with chanting of Āmítuófó’s name for a while, I noticed that her face became brighter. (Note 3: The offering of guidance before support-chanting is very important as it gives clear instructions for the dying and deceased on what to so, also giving them a clear direction.)
At her wake, apart from the monastic chanting sessions organised through the undertaker, I also continued to chant Āmítuófó at the three meal times daily, dedicating merits by her casket to her. With all these auspicious signs (瑞相), I sincerely believe my Gugu is already in Pure Land now.
Námó Āmítuófó : JH Lui
6 March 2021
Verse [On] Wholeheartedness
Once giving rise [to] fear, wholeheartedly [be] mindful [of] Āmítuófó. Definitely connecting [to] Āmítuófó, immediately without demonic [disturbances].