My Life as a Monk

My 85 year old father called the other day and we were having our usual conversations about life and the weather and what I did today when suddenly he asked the question: “You believe in past lives, right?”

Now, my father knows the answer to this question, because we have had this conversation before. He knows that I believe in past lives and I know he does not. He has asked me why I believe in past lives and I have told him because I have past life memories on a regular basis. He thinks it must be comforting for me that I believe that we have more than one life to live.

We agree to disagree.

But this time, the tone is different. Something is different about the way he asks the question and so I pretend it’s the first time we are having this conversation and I say,

Yes, I believe in past lives. Why do you ask?”

There is a pause and he says: “I’ve been having past life memories lately. I keep remembering a life I had as a monk.”

Really, I reply. What do you remember?

Every morning in the monastery we had mutton stew. He says. It was a simple life. I really liked my life as a monk.

He continues: Actually, I don’t even know what mutton is, do you?

We consult google and both discover that mutton is the meat from an older sheep while lamp is the meat from a younger sheep.

“We had mutton stew every morning he continued. It was a simple life. I really enjoyed that life. He says somewhat wistfully.”

You know, Dad. I say. I remember a life where I was a monk too. I think we were friends in the monastery.

You think we were friends in the monastery? he repeats back to me.

Yes, yes I do. I say.

He takes a moment to reflect and then says: Yes, I think you are right, I think we were friends in the monastery.

The conversation drifts a bit and then he says: You know, my father has been visiting me at night.

What? I ask.

Yes, my father, he has been visiting me at night.

What does he say, I ask?

Nothing. My father replies. I just wake up in the middle of the night and he is there smiling at me. It is really comforting.

And I smile and I say that is great Dad. That is really nice that grandpa is visiting you.

And my smile is wistful now because although I am happy for my Dad that he is having these experiences and that we can talk about them, I am also realizing that he is being prepared for his next chapter and his next adventure.

I realize that I too am being prepared.

And so, I smile and say that is great Dad. And inside I am happy and inside I am sad.

A plate of compassion all around for this strange and interesting journey we are all on together.

~Hayley Mermelstein