I would like to quote hospice worker Rodney Smith again. In an interview with author Victoria Dimidijian in JOURNEYING EAST, Rodney says: "Death always holds the possibility of growth."
Whatever could he mean by this? Doesn't he know that death is the end, the final act? How can there be growth without a future?
Growth doesn't take place in the future; it takes place in the here-and-now. To the extent that one is alive, growth is possible. I prefer learning to growth. We are capable of learning all the way to, and through, our last breath. Zen masters even use their very last breath as an opportunity for teaching, for the transmission of truth, that might spark enlightenment in his or her students. Of course, one doesn't have to be a student of zen to learn from the death of another.
Why would one want be interested in learning on one's deathbed? By that point, hasn't one learned everything there is to learn and, besides, what's the point? After all, life's over; you can't take the learning with you to the grave? This is a very narrow-minded way of thinking. To learn is to love. Love is learning. Love never ends; it continues to reverberate even after the last exhalation. Love requires no motive, no gain. Love acts for itself.
in the far corner
of an empty cave
that sliver of sun