(For a second week) Yunmen said, “I’m not asking you about before the full moon. Come and say a word or
two about after the full moon.”
He himself replied, “Every day is a good day.”
~ Blue Cliff Record, Case 6
A great thing about koans is they can point to one thing one week and equally illuminate another point the next week. They are versatile: you don’t need a cat koan to solve cat problems. Sometimes moonlight koans are better for cats. And maybe ‘Everyday is a good day’ is better at addressing death than the National Teacher’s ‘Build me a seamless tomb’ or Tao Wu’s ‘I won’t say, I won’t say.’
One of the more moving poems I read recently was from long-time friend Joyce, writing of her husband’s death. Thinking he was just resting, she went into the cold bedroom to put a blanket over him. She slept until the morning, as she wrote ‘Until blue lips at dawn.’
I read that and thought, ‘blue is the best color.’ The best color not in any morbid sense, but that Lief’s now blue lips held all of the love, sense of loss, and tenderness in Joyce’s life with him (see the poem below).
When my own mother died, all of her children were around her bed. We had just returned from burying my father in Calaveras County, and now her vital signs were down ticking. As her breathing and heart rate slowed, I laid on the bed next to her and talked into her ear about the funeral, and how it was good, and how we were all here now. She seemed relieved, and slipped away quickly after that. When all the lines went flat, I stood up and hugged one of my brothers, exclaiming ‘That was great!’. He did not seem to feel the same.
‘Everyday is a good day’ does not mean all things are always good. It means that every day, and even every moment, is rich with the light that animates the universe, including ourselves and all other things. That is why blue is the best color. Indeed, blue is the only color.
BLUE LIPS AT DAWN
When my mate died, his last words were,
‘Everything is absolutely perfect!’
But it wasn’t for me…
He had asked for the Organic chicken
I had to give him Swansons!
The night before his “hallowed Awakening”,
He demanded the phone be answered…!
We tried to convince him that it wasn’t ringing;
He seemed awake.
Fourteen days before I thought the horse had
Finished me off! Breaking my orbital bone and the old dead ones were
keeping me company
Leif said, ‘ the phone is ringing answer it!!!
Someone you love is going to die!’
When the great sleep came upon him and I in exhaustion thought
” ah, he’s resting….’
I leaned on the kitchen sink to cry out loud saying, ‘oh, Leif one of us is
going to die tonight!’
His clear full laugh
Just behind me
Only empty space
I should have realized then!
The bedroom was cold
I placed an extra blanket over him in the dark
Then slept till blue lips at dawn
~ Joyce Pointe