–Guest post by Mark Sidwell–
Thank you all for accompanying Martin on the journey so far. For those of you who find this blog later, welcome.
Martin died late Saturday evening, September 7th. The change was peaceful, and he was surrounded by family and words of love.
Shortly before that, when his body had become very much weaker, he wrote the below final entry for this blog and asked me to post it later along with whatever else seemed fitting.
“I’ve done everything I can think of that I can still do, there’s little I can learn by continuing to live like this and I will become an ever increasing physical burden to Felicity my beloved partner so I will eat and drink no more. I have been blessed in so many ways. Now I’m excited to see what comes next.”
These words encapsulate the spirit with which Martin approached life, and his death. He applied his Buddhist practice devotedly to the experience of ALS, and focused his attention on finding peace and equanimity with the various changes to his body. The grace with which he encountered every challenge showed us what was possible, and helped us to find a measure of the same ease with a very difficult experience. I’m deeply grateful for that gift.
Many years ago, Dad mentioned that it had recently occurred to him that the happiest time in his life had been when he was little, when his family had lived in a house with a dirt floor and had owned almost nothing. He said with a chuckle that it was ironic that he’d spent most of his life working very hard to make sure that he’d never be in that situation again. He said this not regretfully, but with his characteristic quiet amusement.
When Dad found Buddhism he approached the practice with the same diligence, deep curiosity, and quiet persistence with which he approached every new project. He explored, and practiced, and he found something precious – in a sense, he found a way back to that house with the dirt floor, to the knowledge that in the midst of life’s brilliant complexity there is a simplicity hiding in the center of everything. He discovered that by travelling there, a kindness and peace can be found which is the inheritance of all sentient beings.
Like all good adventurers, Dad returned from this experience changed and with a desire to share what he’d found. Not only did he write about his experiences here and elsewhere, but over the years he truly lived the precepts he was learning, devotedly applied the practice to his thoughts and actions, and by living that example he held the door open and gestured in, inviting us all into that tiny house with the dirt floor.
Dad’s body has died, and as he wrote in his final message he has now learned what happens at that moment. Over the course of his journey he helped so many people, touched so many lives – and through this blog and all the out-spreading actions of all those whose lives he touched he will continue to impact many more.
I think that the greatest parting gift he gave to us though is in his time spent pointing along the path that others had walked before him, toward the space we now share, all of us. He stands at the door to that tiny house with a dirt floor, smiling, his eyes alight, inviting us in. That house stands waiting for us, where we are together with the precious simplicity that Martin found.
As I sat with him in the last weeks we shared, one thing he mentioned was his hope that this blog would continue to be helpful to people. I encourage you to invite others into Martin’s childhood home, and to share what Martin discovered here wherever you believe it can be of help to others.