Originally posted in Treeleaf.
Just as an update:
As I posted here about two months ago my mother was sick of cancer. We converted one room in my parents' house into a hospital room, complete with the necessary medical equipment and a team of doctors and nurses. One of the doctors happened to be married to an older cousin of mine so there was a mix of professionalism and personal care.
Last week my wife called me to say that Mom was in a coma. I asked her if I should go back home (I'd been flying back and forth between Manila and Davao every weekend for the past several weeks, and I'd just got back in Manila the night before). She said she didn't know but that she would call me later that night then we'd decide. After a couple of hours she called back and said that Mom had woken up. So we figured I'd stick to the original plan, which was to fly in on Thursday evening and stay there until Sunday. But then later my sister called and told me I'd better come home immediately. According to the doctor, Mom was going to slip in and out of the comatose state, and each time it was going to be deeper and deeper until she wouldn't wake up anymore. So I took the afternoon flight to Davao on Tuesday. I spent the next few days spending time with my Mom, holding her hand, talking to her.
The doctor said she could hear us even in the coma state so we would whisper in her ear. Sometimes we'd sing to her. One time I recited the Metta prayer in her ear. Several times I chanted - once in her ear and other times while holding her hand. Many times I just sat there holding her hand, stroking her hair, looking into her barely-open eyes (when she was awake). Mostly I told her I loved her and thanked her for being my mother, and that I didn't want her to suffer anymore so while nobody wanted her to die, we all didn't want her to hold on for our sake.
On Saturday night the doctors told us she would likely die in the early morning. So we spent the night there waiting. In the early morning we gathered around her. I was already chanting with my juzu, when my aunt told everyone in the room that this was a sacred moment and got everyone to pray. Picture this: you have a room full of Catholics praying the prayers for the dying, many of them clutching rosaries and prayer books, and there's my wife and I holding our juzu and I'm chanting the Nembutsu. And somehow it all fit. There was no division in my mind between Catholic and Buddhist, between the rosaries with crosses on them and the rosary in my hand, between what they were praying and what I was chanting. On one level, there was me, wife, my family, and there was my mom on her deathbed. At the same time, there was only chanting, only praying, only watching, only dying. All-at-once. It was like listening to an orchestra - different instruments making different sounds yet all in harmony. There was the sound of my mother's struggle to breathe, the whirr of the machines, the beeps of the monitor, our voices. There was her heart rate on the monitor dropping gradually from fifty beats per minute. Finally, she stopped breathing. The monitor still registered her heart rate as 22 beats per minute - but that was just her pacemaker. Her heart had finally stopped.