How My Father And I Guided My Mother To Depart Peacefully
My mother followed my father to visit temples for Buddhist chanting in her 40s. After they stopped going, she practised mixed praying, to Contemplator Of Sounds Bodhisattva (观音菩萨), Dà Bógōng (大伯公) and Jìgōng (济公). Her health gradually deteriorated after implant surgery on her neck near the end of 2014. In the middle of 2022, her food intake decreased, and could only have liquid food. As she was bedbound, she often complained of back and stomach pains in her last month. During those times, my father and I would persuade her to Niànfó (念佛), after which she would be able to sleep peacefully. (With sincere mindfulness of Buddha, with the Buddha’s blessings, pain otherwise ‘mindful’ of will subside.)
During an episode of low blood pressure in the middle of July, she became drowsy and unresponsive. We brought her to see a GP and specialist, who gave her a 10-day course of antibiotics. The medicine seemed to work. She would be mostly sleeping, only waking to take two meals a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Since then, my father and I would take turns to Niànfó in her presence, encouraging her to do so too, at least twice a day. We would remind her to let go of her pain and discomfort, to sincerely Niànfó, and to follow Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛) to his Pure Land (净土). She would Niànfó aloud with us for a short while then.
In the evening of 28 August, her blood pressure dropped, as her heart rate increased, with her becoming breathless. When my helper turned her to the side, much black fluid flowed from her mouth. She was not conscious then. We sent her by ambulance to the nearest hospital, which was Sengkang General Hospital, where I told the doctor that we would not like there to be any invasive treatment, so that she can hopefully depart as comfortably as possible. Later, she called loudly that her back was in pain, after which she lost consciousness. The doctor put her on a drip, with an oxygen mask, and gave her antibiotics the next day. As she did not respond to the antibiotics, they were soon stopped.
As she was in critical condition when she admitted to hospital, I quickly took a week’s leave and to offer support-chanting (助念), to encourage her to Niànfó (at least in her mind) with me. I followed the BGRAM steps (as listed at the end of https://purelanders.com/2021/08/17/how-my-mother-departed-for-pure-land-smoothly-without-turning-off-life-support) and asked Teacher Shi’an to send me the guidance text in Chinese (as at https:/purelanders.com/sign). I started to guide her with the more complete text once a while on 30 August. Teacher Shi’an also told me to cover her with Rebirth Blanket (往生被) to help eliminate karmic obstacles (消业障) and offer protection.
As the hospital only allowed five authorised visitors, I video-called her relatives to urge her to let go of her suffering, and to follow Āmítuófó to his Pure Land. I continued to Niànfó by her bed whenever I visited. My sister also did so mentally, while my father did so at home. (Verbal Niànfó that the dying can hear is the most direct and crucial support-chanting.) I followed Teacher Shi’an’s instructions closely to remind her regularly that as her body is giving way, it was time to ‘move house’, to go to Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, and that we too will also join her there when it is our time to go.
My mother departed peacefully at around 12.45 am on 1 September when I was out for a short break. I quickly did Niànfó for another 15 minutes before I looked for a nurse to check on her. When the nurse felt no pulse on her neck, I requested for another half an hour to Niànfó for her. The doctor later declared her time of death to be 2.15 am. (Actually, there is no hurry for confirmation of death, and if the hospital is not too busy, in Singapore, it is usually possible to ask for a few hours more, for more support-chanting.) I had put in a special request to minimise touching of my mother’s body when she departed. The staff only touched to certify her passing and to change her.
I arranged the undertaker to collect her body at 5 am. The nurse changed her clothes at 4.30 am, so that her body need not be refrigerated at the mortuary. Apart from making a few calls to my siblings and for funeral arrangement, I did Niànfó at her bedside as much as possible. When the nurses changed her, my sister and sister-in-law noted that her body seemed very supple as they could change her easily. The undertaker also commented that her body was soft and supple. (This is the auspicious sign [瑞相] of the body and mind being gentle and soft [身心柔软], which signifies peace and bliss of body and mind.)
My mother’s body was sent to the void deck for her wake on 1 September at around 1 pm. My helper told me that Ah Ma looked younger and ‘cantik’ (beautiful). She asked me if the undertaker had applied make-up on her, but this was not done at all. (This is the auspicious sign of the deceased looking better and in one’s prime, which signifies great physical and spiritual well-being thereafter.)
During the wake, I recited BGRAAM (as at https://purelanders.com/wake) once a day and BGRAM whenever I could, (changing the guidance text to that for after death). When I was doing Niànfó on the early morning of her cremation day on 5 September, I smelled very fragrant flowers on the way back, from the wake to my house, twice. In Mandai Service Hall 1 of the crematorium, my helper, sister and I also smelled a very nice flowery fragrance. (This is the auspicious sign of extraordinary fragrance filling the room (异香满堂), which signifies a good departure to a better place.)
By nature, I am a very emotional person, who cries easily. However, I did not cry when my mother departed. I felt very peaceful and calm indeed. I am grateful that I could Niànfó for the whole day on 31 August, from 6.30 am onwards, as well as for the past two days. Niànfó also gave me much strength to pull through this difficult time.
I am very grateful to my mother, who was my great teacher in life. She departed on 1 September at the age of 84, which used to be Teacher’s Day. Because of her sickness, I went to attend Teacher Shi’an’s Destination Pureland course to better prepare for her departure. I am also very grateful to Teacher Shi’an for his clear guidance throughout this challenging period. With the Buddha’s loving-kindness and compassion, my mother could end her suffering in this world with her peaceful departure for Pure Land. For 49 days, my father and I will continue to Niànfó and dedicate the merits for her to attain a higher grade of birth in Pure Land, if possible. Jasmine flowers that we offered at our home shrine would open up like lotuses when we Niànfó and dedicate merits. (See picture above.) My father also feels very glad, peaceful and at ease whenever chanting there.
With gratitude (感恩) for the support of my helper, siblings, (especially my sister), their spouses, (especially my sister-in-law), nephews and nieces, colleagues and bosses, uncles and aunties, cousins, friends and many others during this challenging time, who allowed me to have more time, to practise Niànfó for my mother. Thank you.
Námó Āmítuófó : HS
10 September 2022