My mother’s thoughts on death and the afterlife,

I video called my mother tonight through Facebook Messenger. My mom’s health condition has been declining for the past two years, and it is getting worse every day. I cannot imagine all the physical pain that she is going through each day. She spends almost all her days in bed and on a wheelchair. My family rarely discusses death and the afterlife. It is very normal that we don’t express our feelings to each other, especially talking about emotions as death approaches our loved one. Tonight, I asked my Mom about her feelings and thoughts on death and the afterlife.

“How are you feeling these days?”

“I am in pain. I cannot sleep well at night because my whole body is in pain every day.  Luckily, I can still eat but I am very picky with food these days.”

“Are you afraid of death?”

“I used to be afraid of death. But now I am no longer scared of it. I sometimes wish that it would take me soon so all the pain that I am experiencing will finally end.”

“What do you think would happen to you after you die?”

“I believe that I will not realize that I had been dead until day three of my death. Then, I would feel like I woke up from a good sleep. Then, I would find myself in an empty open field. I would then wait for them to take me either to heaven or hell, depending on my karma.”

“Where do you think they will take you?”

“I am not sure; I hope they will take me to heaven. I think I have practiced a lot of good karma.”

“I am sure you will go to heaven. Do you believe in the afterlife? If so, do you prefer to be reborn as a female or a male?”

“Yes, I do. I think that I will be reborn again. I don’t care if I will be reborn as a male or a female as long as I can be reborn as a human again, that alone, is a great gift.”

“Do you think you would remember your previous life if you were to be reborn again?”

“I have learned that at the gate of reincarnation, they would give me a drink which would erase all the memories of my previous life. I think that at this point I have a choice in which I can pretend to swallow it, then spit it out as soon as I pass the gate of reincarnation.”

“I see you know a trick (I said with a big smile). Would you do the trick so you can remember your children?”

“I would do that if I could select which memories to keep and which to erase. I believe that would be impossible; therefore, I would swallow the drink. Now that I am getting weaker every day, I often look at your father’s photo, and the memories of him give me a lot of pain. I think I rather not remember this life so I can start my new life completely fresh.”

“That is very smart. I think you should do that. It is important to start your new life with new memories. Would you wish to be reborn as my child?”

“I could only be reborn as your child only if we have bad karma together. I don’t think you and I have that. I sent you away at a very young age and you basically grew up with the circus, so I believe that we don’t have enough bad karma for me to reborn as your child.”

“Where did you learn about all of these?”

“I learned from the monks at the temple and from their teachings on the radio.”

“I am sure those are the truths. Do you think Dad has already been reborn?”

“I am not sure. I think he is most likely waiting for me to join him because when he was alive, he practiced a lot of bad kamar to us and to the animals.”

I am smiling at her, then asking her to smile for a selfie through the screenshot. I told her about my college plan in which it includes my wish to go to law school.  Then she asked me about the jobs that I wish to work for after I complete my studies. I told her there are only two professions I am interested: a social worker, working closely with domestic violence victims or a lawyer advocating for human’s labour rights

“What do you think about my plan?”

“Very cool. I knew that giving you the name, Poonam, is indeed, not a bad thing. You have gone far and beyond what I thought you could do. Imagine how cooler it could be if you were a son.”

“I hate to correct you, Mom. But you need to stop comparing a son to a daughter. I can do great things, and even better than a son could. I have achieved great things, and I promise you that I will keep thriving. So please stop the idea that a son is stronger and smarter than a daughter. I am already strong and smart” (I end with a smile).

“Ok. I am sorry.” (she laughs).

“Apology is accepted.” (We laugh).

We eventually said goodbye. I thanked her and she blessed me. I hung up the phone and I prayed to my ancestors that when the day comes, they will grant my mother her wish to reborn as a human again.

My Mom and I on our call tonight, April 29th. 2021, from the U.S. to Cambodia.

5 thoughts on “My mother’s thoughts on death and the afterlife,

  1. Phounam,
    This is such a gift from your Mother. So truthful. She loves you so so much and is so proud of you. It is sort of humorous that even after all you have accomplished she still laments that you are not a male!
    But this is Cambodia.

  2. Your mom is a warrior as you are! I am sure she will have good rewards in the afterlife, but I hope she does not end up being put close to your dad again. For now, I hope that her days here amongst us are more joyful and less painful. Love you!

  3. She has you, her child anyone could ask for. We all will confront death one day. I think I will just smile to myself on that day.

    “Thank you the photographers, composer and musicians.

    Music copyrighted by Phare Performing Social Enterprise.
    Poem written by Mr. Khuon Det writer and stage director of Sokha. He was inspired by Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, 1952.

    ឪ សេចក្តីស្លាប់អើយ​!! ហេតុអ្វីបានជាអ្នកដង្ហោយហៅខ្ញុំម្លេះ?​​ សេចក្តីស្លាប់កំពុងរំកិលមករកខ្ញុំយ៉ាង​ស្ងៀមស្ងាត់​?​ សេចក្តីស្លាប់កំពុងរំកិលមករកខ្ញុំយ៉ាងយឺតៗ​។ ខ្ញុំពុំមានភាពភិតភ័យនឹង​សេចក្តីស្លាប់ឡើយ ! សេចក្តីស្លាប់អើយសេចក្តីស្លាប់ !! ជិវិតដែលត្រូវបានផ្តល់មកឲ្យយើង យើង​ឈ្នះវាដោយការលះបង់វា ។​ សូមឲ្យការស្លាប់មានកិត្តិនាមជាអមតះ​ តែ នៅរស់ប្រកបដោយការស្រលាញ់ដែលមិនមានទីបញ្ចប់។ ​កុំហុសនៃជិវិតដង្ហោយរកសោភណ្ឌ័នៃសេចក្តីមេត្តា ដែលអាចធ្វើអោយការផ្លាស់ប្តូរនៅភាពឯការបស់ខ្លួនឲ្យទៅជាភាពចុះសំរុងជាមួយនឹង​របស់គ្រប់យ៉ាង ។ ជិវិត! ដូចជាក្មេងម្នាក់សើចកំពុងគ្រវីប្រដាប់លេងដែលគ្មាន់ជិវិតរបស់វា នៅពេលដែលវាកំពុងរត់ដូច្នេះដែរ ។ សូមកុំធ្វើអោយឈឺចាប់ខ្លួនឯង​ដោយការស្រមៃក្នុងស្បៃអន្ធកាល​។ សេចក្តីភ័យខ្លាចជាច្រើនកើតឡើងពីភាពឯកា ភាពស៊ីជម្រៅនៃការអនុវត្តន៍ដ៏ត្រឹមត្រូវមួយគឺកំអោយមានភាពតឹងតែងចំពោះខ្លួនឯង ។ សូមរក្សានូវសន្តិភាពក្នុងព្រលឹងអ្នកទោះបីជាវាមិនល្អ មិនបរិសុទ្ធ នឹងមិនដូចបំណងក៏ដោយ​ តែវានៅតែជាពិភពលោកដ៏ស្រស់ស្អាតមួយ។​ ខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថាមនុស្សទាំងអស់នៅក្នុងពិភពលោក ជា​ពិសេសកុមារ និង​ រស់នៅប្រកបដោយសន្តិភាព ទាំង ផ្លូវចិត្ត​ ផ្លូវកាយ និង​ សង្គម ៕

    Why are you whispering at me, death?
    Death, crawling toward me and secretly looking at me
    Death, slowly coming toward me
    I will not be afraid of death
    Death, Death,
    Life is given to us, we earn it by giving it
    Let death have the immortality of fame
    But the living immortality of love
    Life’s errors cry for merciful beauty
    That can modulate their isolation
    Into a harmony with a whole.
    Life, like a child, laughs; shaking its rattle of death as it runs.
    Do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
    Keep peace in your soul.
    With all in a sham, drugery and broken dreams, it is still beautiful
    I wish all people, especially children
    Would have peace: physically, mentally and socially.”

    1. Bong Dara, thank you for posting this poem. It brings back good memories of SOKHA show. The show is very moving and it will always be in my heart. I am thinking of you and our Phare circus family.

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