Yesterday my aunt passed away from COVID-19. After almost two weeks in the hospital, they decided to turn off her ventilator and let her go. She had a troubled life, in many ways, suffering with many health ailments. We joked she had 99 lives because she’d cheated death so many times. She loved hunting and told tall tales to the extent it was hard to separate fact from fiction.
Her passing got me thinking about Japanese death poetry. In the Zen tradition, masters often wrote a death poem right before their passing. I don’t know what my aunt would’ve written, so instead I share the death poem of Kozan Ichikyo, written in 1360.
Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.