On Getting The Buddha
Richard didn’t awaken like those people who had spontaneous spiritual events. He wasn’t the Buddha, or Byron Katie or Jill Bolte Taylor. And he wasn’t unlike them either. Richard had no context for creating meaning. He could not recall what happened to him (yesterday or a year ago.) He had few communication skills to explain recent events to anyone, not even to himself. His only motivation was love. As far as I could tell. And he didn’t seem to desire to tell his story either. When we aren’t constantly remembering ourselves, there’s less inclination to invent a persona to share.
“Why did you come back to this body?” I finally asked him months after the surgery, after his heart was stronger, after his lungs stopped filling with fluid, after four days of chemotherapy, after we made it home to our bed, after he could form sentences.
“I wanted to be with you. It didn’t feel like I was finished,” he said.
Eight years after Richard’s surgery and brain injury, we watch a video of Benjamin Smythe, and invite him to stay with us for a week. He accepts. Ben, whose mantra is ‘No one is in charge. No one knows. No one is coming. Everything is over,’ came to live with us, doing everything we did in our days. We made meals together, visited with friends and family, sat in silence, sang songs, walked Green Lake park, watched college basketball, wandered in the woods, sat on the porch, and talked writing and the nature of existence. At the end of the week we were no longer strangers; we had become kinfolk, as my people say.
One day I described something that was difficult to relate to in the more silent, less preferenced Richard whom I love, post TBI.
“There’s nothing there to relate to,” said Ben. “He’s spaciousness.”
His words stopped me in my tracks. Ben spoke a truth that I hadn’t had acknowledged by others. Yet, I felt it every time I was with Richard.
“Still, there’s no problem. You gave up your husband but you got the Buddha.”
Benjamin Smythe and Sonya Lea talking on the front porch, by Richard Bandy, March 2012.