It was a week before Christmas, a special birthday celebration and instead of just a few candles we offered 1000 butterlamps. These were lit before the start of the ceremony which concluded with the traditional Happy Birthday song for Rinpoche.
After our shared lunch I walked slowly up the stairs to the Temple. From the bottom of the stairs in the distance I saw a young woman with her two children aged 6 and 8. I greeted her on arrival and she asked if she could light some butter lamps. She looked close to tears, and I asked her, “What’s the matter?”
“I need some help, my son died last week and I need some kind of spiritual help that’s why I came here. Is there a Lama here? I need to talk to someone.” Then the floodgate of tears was unleashed. I put my arm around her and let her cry. Her two young children looked worried. I had some home baking upstairs and asked them to bring it down for a cup of tea.
When we were alone she shared that her 23 year old son had committed suicide. His siblings were told their brother had died. They were too young to understand and she didn’t want to burden them with it. As the children came bounding down the stairs I offered them something to eat and suggested they play outside on the grass where they could still see us whilst I talked with mum. They appeared to be relieved to have another adult to talk to their mum.
I asked the mother whether it was drug related, “Yes,” she replied. Her work experience as a psychiatric nurse didn’t help her at all to make sense of this.
“I know what I tell my clients to help them but they are just empty words all I can do is cry for my son.”
“What is the root cause of your pain?” I asked
Instantly she replied “That I was a bad mother, I should have called in to see him more, I should have known, I should have done better, I should have spent more time with him.”
Very gently I said to her, “No, I don’t see a bad mother in front of me. I see a very loving mother who cares deeply for her children. I don’t have to tell you what happens when people misuse drugs, you know. This is not your fault. How can you know what was in his mind, when most of the time we are not aware of what’s going on in our own minds? You can only know your own mind. I am glad you’re here and able to light some butter lamps for him. Use that sadness in a positive way by thinking of him when you light the lamps. Think of all your love for him and offer it to him as you light the lamp.That is good for him and for you.”
We were interrupted by my tummy bug that sent me running unexpectedly to the bathroom. “Don’t go,” I called out to her, “I’ll be back soon, wait for me.”
When I returned she appeared composed and welcomed the opportunity to express herself.
“ I would like to do some volunteer work here, I think that will help” she said.
“Are you good with flowers? We could do with some good floral arrangement skills.”
Her face brightened as she told me she used to work in a florist shop.
“You can arrange the flowers for the shrine that would be a big help.” We exchanged contact details and she left the temple flanked by her two children who were glad their mum had stopped crying.