*This is my answer to a question posted on Quora.*
If my mother died, I’ll be very sad. I will cry, miss her and that will probably not change so quickly. I expect it to stay that way for the rest of my life. My mother and I are one. I am a part of her. She cared for me, nourished me and taught me many things. For all these reasons and many others I will be sad.
But many cultures view death differently and I want to take the opportunity to explain the Buddhist view.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of Buddhist psychology.
Buddhism and many other Eastern cultures see death very differently from us in the West. Death is much more present in everyday life.
Everything is transient
A central idea in Buddhism is that everything is constantly changing. There is nothing that always stays the same. Everything that has developed at some point will also pass away. That applies to the mayfly, the pyramids, the sun and also to us. We are constantly changing. At every second of our lives. I am no longer the same person as 10 years ago and in 10 years, I will also be different. And even from one day to the next I will change, even if it is hardly noticeable. But the change takes place.
It is exactly the same for my mother. Since her birth she has been changing. Since her birth she is about to die. As if a countdown is ticking over. And that is true for her, for me and for everyone else. Since the egg and the semen united, we are destined to die. There is nothing we can do about it.
Everything is interconnected
Like I said, my mother and I are one. Where did I get my body from? I got it from my father and my mother. Where did I get certain thought patterns from? I learned them from my parents. Would my personality be the same if I had not had my mother around me? How do my childhood memories still influence me today?
So even if my mother might be dead, I will still be influenced by her. She has made me the person I am. She is in me. She lives on in me and her energy, her love and also her shortcomings and missteps will accompany me for the rest of my life. They even influence the children I will have one day, even if my mother should never meet them. Without my mother there would be no grandchildren. We are all part of a long chain.
Of course, all this also applies to my father, my grandmother, my grandfather, my teachers, my friends, a salesman and a stranger on the street. All these people have a direct or indirect influence on me and continue to live in me. So even if my mother is dead and I can no longer talk to her, I know that she is still there – inside me. And the love I feel for her is still the same. Whether she is physically there or not.
There are more important questions we should ask!
So now we know that everything is constantly changing and that we are interconnected.
Instead of asking yourself, “How will I react when my mother dies?” you should ask yourself, “How do I want to live with my mother?
Since we know that one day death will come for all of us and we do not know when it will be, we should live every moment intensely.
Ask yourself what kind of relationship you want to have with your mother.
What is important to you?
What other things would you like to do together?
What do you want to share?
Do you want to be near or far?
Do you want to forgive possible misdeeds or not?
What is important to you and what do you not want to regret later?
Now both of you are still alive and can shape your relationship. For some it is of course also an option to withdraw consciously. But in any case we live now, in the current moment. And this moment is the only one that really exists and in which we can be happy.