A good friend of mine in the U.S. told me that she was pregnant, but her boyfriend and family were forcing her to have an abortion. Her boyfriend even said, she had to choose between him and the baby, so if she wanted to keep the baby, then they will break up.
“Can you please keep the baby?” For me, being on the other side of the world in Australia, I didn’t know how to help her. “The baby is innocent.”
“I didn’t go into the operating room.” When she said this, we both burst into tears. “When I saw the baby’s heartbeat, I just couldn’t imagine. How could I end this life with my own hands?”
Since then, almost everyday I would chat with her, comfort her and give her encouragement. She asked me if being vegetarian during pregnancy would cause a lack of nutrition, so I sent many books about vegetarianism for expecting mothers to her. Although she is Catholic, I gave her a recording of the Great Compassion Mantra. She liked it very much, and said that she felt very comfortable and at peace after listening to it. Not long after that she told me that she could recite the Great Compassion Mantra already.
It was during her fourth month of pregnancy when the man who had left her came back to find her. He sincerely apologised and proposed to her on his knees, hoping that she could give him another chance and that they could take care of their child together.
I was genuinely happy for her. When she invited me to her wedding and to be her bridesmaid, I felt so much warmth in my heart.
Her obstetrician said that there were insufficient beds at the hospital and hoped that she could have a caesarean section, so that it would be easier to allocate medical staff. She persistently refused, and following one month of stalemate with this obstetrician, she decided to find another one. In the end, the other obstetrician also used the same reason to persuade her. She still persisted. Both she and I believed that everything should happen naturally, and that forced things are always not ideal, including giving birth.
When she reached the ninth month of pregnancy, there was a period when I often dreamt of infants: “ee-ee-aa-aa” sounds, glowing chubby limbs, and a pleasant fragrance emanating from the baby’s body. One day I dreamt that there was a golden calendar on the altar, and my consciousness let me know that I was supposed to pick a date. I picked 7, and then a voice told me that it was too early. I picked 10, and then the voice told me that it was too late. In my confusion, I woke up.
On May 9th Australian time, and May 8th U.S. time, my friend began to feel labour pains. Without the use of any anaesthesia, she successfully gave birth to a healthy baby. The whole childbirth process took only two hours.
In August, I went to the U.S. for her wedding. Dressed in a wedding gown, she was tender and beautiful, emanating a mother’s kindness. I held the baby and kissed her tiny face. There was a feeling of warmth that words cannot describe. I softly recited the Great Compassion Mantra under the sunlight, as the little sweetheart listened, her eyes curved up with a soft smile.
“I’m sorry.” She said. “They are worried that I don’t have enough milk, so they forced me to have chicken soup. I’m not vegetarian now.”
I patted her hand, and didn’t say anything.
At the end of last year, her email made my heart ache tremendously. While she was on maternity leave, she had been made redundant. Not long before that, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was already undergoing chemotherapy. At the same time, her newly-wedded husband had become uncaring towards their child, and very impatient towards her. He would come home late everyday, and then bitterly force her to find employment soon when he got home.
She became mildly depressed, and her doctor prescribed her with a lot of tranquilisers, telling her that this is a newly developed drug with no side effects, so that it would be safe to take.
“Your problem cannot be solved with medicine.” I translated some Dharma talks by Master Lu for her, and sent some sutra and mantra recordings to her. “I hope you take care of yourself.”
One day, she overdosed on the tranquilisers and lost her conscious. When she reached the emergency room, there was already no heartbeat.
She felt groggy, as if she was asleep but cannot wake up. Her consciousness was in a confused state, and she didn’t know where she was going or what she was doing. Then, she saw a lot of light in bunches, and also heard a lot of mysterious voices. She suddenly realised that she was about to die.
“Guan Yin Bodhisattva.” This line suddenly appeared in her mind, “My daughter is only a few months old, I cannot let her be without a mother.”
And then she began to weep in despair, but she could not feel her tears falling. She softly recited, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, and then began to recite the Great Compassion Mantra intermittently.
Suddenly, there was a heartbeat.
On the verge of death, she slipped over to the other side, and then she was immediately pulled back by a force that’s warm yet powerful.
After returning home, she told me about her personal experience of being on the brink of death. She told me that she will perform recitations, practise buddhism, and also let her daughter become vegetarian.
“Life is so fragile.” She told me, “Every breath is so precious. If you fall asleep and don’t wake up, then you will leave. If you exhale and don’t inhale again, then that’s the end.”
I nodded, and smiled.
It is never too early to practise Buddhism, or too late, or unsuitable. Seize the moment, treasure life. Our life is in our own hands.