I must start this entry with a tribute to my Mother, affectionately known as Dead Rita. She was magnificent as a mother. And she was magnificent because she was flawed and did it anyway. Born in 1931 illegitimate, to a mother who was less than stellar and often unquestionably cruel, she chose not to repeat the sins of her mother. Dead Rita was talented, beautiful, wise, humble, artistic and wracked with self doubt and fears. And she did it anyway.
Stayed in a marriage for 43 years that brought her little joy, raised 3 children to the very best of her abilities, gave more than she received, and was grateful for the love of her children and grandchildren. She has been gone for 10 ½ years and I think of her every day. No day is harder than Mother’s Day – I celebrated her every year on this special day with the greatest of joy – she was my hero, the wind beneath my wings, the one person I know who loved me unconditionally and my best friend. When she died in my arms on October 3, 1998, I felt a grief I could not have anticipated. Having her die in front of me was heartbreaking and yet, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Because I had no regrets. I had done all I could for her.
But what if I couldn’t have done that? What if I couldn’t care for her and get her the medical treatment possible? What if I couldn’t have fed her? That instead of dying peacefully in my arms she had died at the hands of a killer, or of a curable disease, or alone? These questions do not haunt me for her, but they haunt me for the people of Darfur.
As painful as it is to watch a parent die in this country, I can’t imagine the excruciating mental agony of a child watching their mother die before them with no knowledge of how they will carry on. It is that vision that keeps me focused and resolved to not eat until May 18, 21 days after I began this fast.
We continue to fast for Darfur because every human soul deserves the right to live with some basic needs met. Food, water, safety, a chance to make their way in the world, in whatever way fits their circumstances, their culture, their time. The people of Darfur barely are surviving. And have NONE of these basic needs. So we protest. And we protest peacefully. War is not the answer.
Yesterday in my mediation class we had a reading of Thich Nhat Hanh from his book: Miracle of Mindfulness, A Manual on Meditation. Thinking of my fast and this work we do to help those who cannot speak for themselves, there was a passage read about a man who was so angry and Nhat Hanh responded peacefully. I was struck by this because I know I cannot be angry with everyone who doesn’t get it, doesn’t care or thinks I’m crazy to take this action.
Nhat Hanh’s response to this question, “Why not be angry with him,” I asked. “Even pacifists have a right to be angry.” He responded: “If it were just myself, yes. But I am here to speak for Vietnamese peasants. I have to show them that we can be at our best.” (From The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh).
He said this at the height of the Vietnam War when he came to the US to speak at churches and any place where people would gather to hear the other side of the story of Vietnam. A Buddhist Monk. Who knew he must do what he could, regardless of the outcome.
That is why we fast for Darfur. To draw attention to an untenable situation. And say: no more. Stop the killing. Get more humanitarian aid to people who are starving while we gorge at Mother’s Day buffets (well, not me today – but usually!)
And be thankful. For all you have. For all you will have. And know you can make a difference.