Archive for the ‘letter’ Category

Contemplating Death While Creating Life

February 18, 2010

[Posted by Kiri Westby, Change-maker/Rule-Breaker/Story-teller]

This week I nearly lost a family member, albeit a four-legged one. And in the midst of dealing with urgent care doctors, IVs and exorbitant bills, I shed a lot of tears and thought a lot about the end of life…how quickly it arises and how little control we actually have over it.

At four months pregnant, the last thing I imagined being preoccupied with while creating life was death. But it keeps coming up again and again. This little person in my womb, barely 5 inches long now, will die someday (hopefully long after me). Perhaps it seems strange to be thinking about my baby’s death, when it has not yet had its birth, but I feel it is important.

I like to picture myself becoming a non-controlling mother, one who allows her child to roam free, realizing their dreams uninhibited by my fears and expectations. But my fierce instinct to keep our cat alive this week and my fears of letting him leave the house (now that he is home recovering) have brought to light just how difficult this state of motherhood may be.

How do we balance our parental instinct to protect and nurture with the tendency to become overprotective, fear-based parents who raise fearful, reticent children?

In these moments, I think of my mother and all that I have put her through, testing the limits of her sanity (you too dad!).

When I was 18, I entered my first war zone in Cambodia and ventured far West into the territory of the brutal Khmer Rouge Dictator Pol Pot…just to see what I could see. When I emerged unharmed a week later in Vietnam, I forgot to call home on the agreed upon date and my poor mom spent several days distraught, waiting by the phone, refusing to leave the house (at that time we had no e-mail, no Facebook, just expensive calling booths).

When I was 30, I was arrested by the Chinese Military for staging a Free Tibet protest at Mount Everest and subsequently disappeared for three days before any government could confirm I was still alive. And believe me, in the twelve years between those two events I gave my mom’s heart several reasons to stop beating. At the time, I thought little of it.

Now, on the precipice of becoming a mother myself, I often wonder how she handled it all? The only thing I can come up with is that she spent a lot of time contemplating death and becoming friends with it…hers and mine. An avid meditation practitioner, she set me loose upon the world, working through her fears and desires to control me and refused to stand in the way of my path.

When we try to control life and pretend that death is not awaiting us, then we exist in an illusory world of make believe, convincing ourselves that everything is safe and predictable. Then, when the reality of death does strike, it is much more brutal and unfamiliar and we are that much more unprepared. But we all know that there is no avoiding death, no matter how safe we feel, no matter how much insurance we purchase. As we saw last month in Haiti, and as I witnessed over and over again in my years working in war zones, disaster can strike anytime and our only weapon against it is to know it, to expect it, to befriend it.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “Death comes without warning, this body will be a corpse…at that time the Dharma is my only help, I shall practice it with exertion.”

Or as the poet Mary Oliver puts it, “when death comes, like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?”

So as an expecting mom, one who wants my kid to grow up fearless and believing they can accomplish anything, I am already practicing by contemplating my unborn child’s death and coming to terms with it.

For many, contemplating death is considered morbid and to be avoided. But for me, embracing death is the only way to live.

Kiri Westby

她的彩色天空 – 妙妙

February 26, 2007


一一欣賞了你的過去﹑現在﹐未來”﹐的展覽品;老實說我實在無法洞悉你的彫塑品及彩墨画裡的乾坤. 但我可以感受到你後期作品裡,線條流暢的彫塑品所釋放出來的精彩人生, 以及彩墨画裡如火山熔漿般的熱情色彩, 是那麼耀眼可愛,令人心生欢喜。

在學習过程中, 你曾經一再詢問講師: “我為什麼會來到這裡? ” 從你的畢業作品中, 相信你已找到了某些答案了吧。另一方面,在與你分享展覽準備工作中的苦與樂的另一半的出現时, 講師也笑著对你說:“現在你可知道你為什麼會來到這裡了吧!“

這一位願意與你分享生活的伴侶的出現, 讓我們這批與你真心相交的朋友,深切感恩這巧妙姻緣的安排. 再多一個月, 你們將會結伴到蒙古去當兩年的義工, 為當地人們提供你們的專才服務. 在這個講求個人享受的社會裡, 你們可是稀有品啊!

未來雖然是一個未知數, 可並非是一個夢,我深信你與你的另一半會互相扶持, 與當地人民分享你們豐富的人生經驗,并擦出美麗的火花!

就以這首歌曲‘一家人’ 作為我們對你們及蒙古人民的深深祝福. 別忘了我們在蒙古草原上的約會。珍重再見!