children’s story

I Love You, Mama Bea

By Lee Klinger Lesser Mama Bea was my daddy's mother and my grandma. When she got sick, the doctors said they thought she was going to die. So she left her home in Florida, and came to live in our house in California. My mommy and daddy said we were going to take care of her, and either help her get well or be with her as she died. I was scared. I didn't want Mama Bea to die.

I helped my mommy clean the room and get it ready for Mama Bea. We picked some fresh flowers and put them in the room. We also brought in pictures of my grandpa. I never knew him because he died before I was born.

Mama Bea came on the airplane by herself and my daddy met her at the airport with a wheelchair. She couldn' t walk very far. I was glad to see her when she came home, but I felt a little shy. I didn't know how she would be. We gave each other a big hug. Daddy helped her walk up the stairs.

Mama Bea was tired. She rested in her room. As the days went by, I could see that Mama Bea was not getting better. It was harder and harder for her to walk. She was weak, and she limped, and held onto things as she went by. Her breathing sounded funny. I kept watching Mama Bea. And I kept watching daddy and mommy helping her. I tried to help her sometimes, too, but I wasn't strong enough for her to lean on.

One day my ankle started hurting me. It was hard for me to walk and I had to limp. When I went to school, I told my teachers that I couldn' t do music or P.E. because my ankle hurt. Mommy and daddy thought it would go away, but it didn't. It kept hurting me for lots of days. Mommy and daddy thought I was making it up. My teachers got angry with me.

One night just as it was getting dark outside, mommy said she wanted to talk with me. I sat in her lap on my bed. It was quiet and cozy. Mommy said that she thought I had feelings that were stuck in my ankle, and that they were making it hurt. She said that when someone we love is hurt, or sick, or dying, it is natural to be really, really angry, and scared, and sad. Mommy hugged me close and said, "Dying is part of living. All we can do is love Mama Bea, take care of her, and take very good care of ourselves, too. We can try to see our own feelings and not let them get stuck anywhere." Then mommy said she bet I could help my ankle be all better, and that she didn't think the feelings were stuck down there anymore. She bet I could stand up and my ankle wouldn't hurt anymore. She even bet I could do a little dance and my ankle wouldn't hurt me. I tried it, and I could!

But Mama Bea wasn't getting better. Each day she seemed to be feeling worse. Sometimes I'd read a book to her on the couch. Mama Bea liked that. So did I. Sometimes we'd snuggle and watch television. I'd bring her a drink with a straw when she was thirsty. Her breathing sounded loud and funny.

One day daddy took Mama Bea to a special doctor to look at her lungs. When daddy came back from the doctor, daddy and mommy, and Mama Bea were all very sad. Daddy told me the doctor said that there was a big sickness in Mama Bea's lungs, and that the doctor couldn't help MamaBea get well. He said Mama Bea was probably going to die very soon, maybe even in a few days.

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I felt very sad. Mama Bea was lying down in her bed. I went and lay down with her. We snuggled and didn't say anything. In a little while, daddy came in and he lay down with us, too. Later, mommy and my brother came in, and sat down on the bed. I was glad we were all together.

When Mama Bea woke up the next morning, she was much more tired. She didn't want to eat any more food. All she wanted sometimes was a popsicle. I liked to bring her popsicles. Daddy pushed Mama Bea in the wheelchair to the living room and she lay down on the couch. I stood behind the couch and looked down at Mama Bea. Mama Bea looked up at me and smiled. She reached up with her hand and said, "I love you, Carol." I reached out my hand and held hers and said, "I love you, too, Mama Bea."

Daddy asked Mama Bea if she was hungry. She said, "No!" Then she said, "All I want to do is die!" She said it over and over again, and she said she wanted to die as fast as she could. I didn't understand, and I didn't like it. I said, "But, Mama Bea, I don't want you to die at all!" Mommy was there and she said, "Carol, nobody wants Mama Bea to die, but when it is time to die, there is no other choice, it is time to die. Mama Bea knows she can't get well and she feels ready to die." I still didn't understand and I still didn't like it.

Later in the day, a hospice nurse named Jenny came to talk with us. We all liked talking with her, even Mama Bea. She said we were lucky to be with Mama Bea and to help her while she was dying. She said it's a very special time. Jenny gave me some special sticks with a sponge on the end of them, and she showed me how to wet it and rub it gently in Mama Bea's mouth when she was thirsty. It was getting hard for Mama Bea to drink. The sticks smelled like mint and Mama Bea liked them. I liked to help Mama Bea.

Then Jenny told me about one of the most special ways I could be with Mama Bea. She said that as Mama Bea got closer to dying, she wouldn't be able to talk to me anymore. She said that Mama Bea would still be able to hear me, though, and I could talk to Mama Bea, and sit and breathe with her. Jenny told me first I should sit down next to Mama Bea and imagine one-hundred golden suns moving right through the middle of me—up and down, from the top of my head all the way into my belly, and back up again. Then she said I should listen to Mama Bea's breathing, and be real quiet, and try to breathe the same way Mama Bea was breathing. Jenny said this was a way to be really close to Mama Bea, and to let her feel how I loved her.

That night, Mama Bea didn't want to go back to her bed anymore. She wanted to stay on the couch. We gave her a pillow and soft, warm blankets and kissed her good night.

When I went in to see her in the morning, Mama Bea didn't answer me when I talked to her. Her breathing was very loud. It seemed hard for her to take every breath. I called her name again, "Mama Bea! Mama Bea!" I felt hurt and scared, and I told mommy that Mama Bea wouldn' t talk to me. Mommy held my hand and said, "Mama Bea is moving out of her body and she is too far away to talk to us now. She still loves us and she can hear you, if you talk to her." I was very sad. I sat down next to Mama Bea and I picked up her hand and held it. She didn't hold mine back. I said, "I love you, Mama Bea." Then I put her hand down and went to school.

When I came back from school, I rushed over to the couch to give Mama Bea a present I made for her at school. It was a clay box with a lid and a big round handle. I called her name and I told her I made her a present. She didn't say anything. She didn't even look at me. I tried to put her hand around the present, but she wouldn't hold it.

Mommy asked me if I wanted to breathe with Mama Bea. She said this was a very special way to be close to her. I remembered what Jenny had told me and I sat down next to Mama Bea. I pictured one-hundred golden suns moving inside of me. It made me smile and feel warm inside. Then I listened to Mama Bea. It was hard to breathe like her. Each breath was different, and kind of jumpy, and loud. I wanted to be close to her, so I got real still inside and I kept sitting there.

Later, we ate dinner and mommy and daddy told me and my brother that they thought Mama Bea was going to die during the night. From my bed, I could hear Mama Bea breathing. Mommy snuggled with me in bed and held me close.

In the morning, daddy and mommy came into my room, sat on my bed, and told me that Mama Bea had died. They were both crying. Mommy held my hand and daddy said, "Mama Bea died quietly and peacefully. Her breathing all of a sudden stopped being loud and it became very, very quiet. I was sitting next to her, holding her hand, and mommy was sitting next to me, holding my hand. We were both breathing with Mama Bea. Each breath was gentle and deeply peaceful. And then there was no next breath."

Daddy was crying when he said, "I think it was a happy way for Mama Bea to die." Daddy said that he and Mommy sat quietly with Mama Bea for a while. Then they called the hospice nurse. She came over to the house and helped mommy and daddy wash Mama Bea, and change her clothes. Daddy and mommy stayed with Mama Bea all night. I listened to them, and then I wanted to go see Mama Bea and say good-bye. I never saw anyone dead before. Mama Bea was lying on the couch. It was Mama Bea, but she looked different. I held her hand. It was very cold, and I went to get a blanket to cover her.

Later some people came to take Mama Bea's body away, and get it ready to fly to New Jersey. Mama Bea wanted to be buried next to my grandpa. We flew on the same plane with Mama Bea so we could go to her funeral.

When we got to New Jersey, I kept getting upset all the time. Mommy asked me if I wanted to make a picture for Mama Bea and write her a letter. She said even though Mama Bea was dead, I could still make her pictures and write to her. I wanted to talk to Mama Bea. I made a picture of a tree and a squirrel for Mama Bea, and I told her I loved her and I missed her.

We went to the cemetery for Mama Bea's funeral, and mommy brought my picture. Daddy talked about Mama Bea, and then mommy read my letter and showed everyone my picture. There were lots of people there. I didn't know most of them. When everyone was finished talking and we said some prayers, whoever wanted to put some dirt on a shovel into Mama Bea's grave. It made a loud sound when the dirt and rocks landed on Mama Bea's coffin. After everyone had their turns, my brother and I both picked up a shovel and kept on digging. All the grownups were talking. I felt like I was still taking care of Mama Bea and helping to bury her next to my grandpa. Then it was time to go. I left a little stone on my grandpa's grave to let him know I was there. We went back to my uncle and aunt's house with lots of people. We lit a big glass candle for Mama Bea. It was going to burn for seven days. We had one to take back to California with us too. We flew back on the airplane the next day.

It was strange to come home. I kept feeling like Mama Bea was in the house somewhere, but she wasn't. We had a big picture of Mama Bea when she was in the swimming pool. She loved the water. So do I. We put the picture next to the big glass candle and we lit the candle. In the picture, Mama Bea was wearing a necklace with a little boy and a little girl holding hands. It was me and my brother, her only grandchildren. Daddy and mommy gave me that necklace. I wear it all the time now. I feel like it brings me close to Mama Bea.

When I sit on the couch where Mama Bea died, I think of her. I remember how I read to her, and snuggled with her, and gave her popsicles. I think of how I held her hand, and breathed with her, and how daddy says she died happy. I think of how I helped Mama Bea die happy.

I wonder where Mama Bea is now. Mommy says it's a mystery. I miss Mama Bea. Mommy says I can still write to Mama Bea whenever I want to. I wrote Mama Bea a letter. I wrote "I love you!Iloveyou!I love y ou! I love y ou! I love you! I love you! I love you!" I didn't know where to send it. So mommy and I burned the letter into a bucket, and then we took the ashes and scattered them into the wind. I think the wind is taking my letter to Mama Bea.

Lee Klinger Lesser is the head teacher of the College of Marin Children's Center. She has organized Family Days of Mindfulness and retreats, and lives in Mill Valley, California. This story is adapted from a children's picture book Lee hopes to have published based on her seven-year-old daughter, Carol's, real experiences with her dying grandmother.

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The Path of Mastication

One Carrot's Story By Cindy Meier

Once upon a time there was a baby carrot. She was very happy in the black earth, nestled next to rocks, caressed by snails. She was bright orange and fresh. Each day the sun shone its nourishing rays on her. Each day a little rain fell and watered the hair on her head, and she grew and grew. She was one happy carrot.

But one day, a farmer plucked the carrot from the earth, her home. She was thrown into a crate with her brothers and sisters. She thought her life was over. The carrot was wrapped in plastic, put in a truck, and delivered to the kitchen at a retreat center. There, the cook unwrapped her, washed her carefully, and took her to a board. The cook lifted his sharp knife and again, the carrot thought her life was over as he chopped her into three pieces.

Two of the pieces were cooked in a stew with other vegetables for people on the retreat. As the stew boiled and the carrot felt her skin soften, she thought, "This time, I will surely die." The two pieces of the carrot were served in a beautiful tin pan with onions and squash and pepper. The carrot waited.

One piece of carrot was spooned into a bowl by a monk. As the monk slowly and mindfully chewed his piece of carrot, she felt herself transforming into the body of the monk. She became his hands and heart and brown eyes. She became the monk! And as the monk went on to be a great teacher, the carrot touched thousands of people through his voice, through his thoughts, through his touch. The carrot was very happy.

The second piece of carrot was scooped into a bowl by another retreatant, who had not yet learned the art of mindful eating. The carrot piece was swallowed whole and the next morning, she found herself in the sewage system traveling to the sewage treatment plant. Once she arrived at the plant, she was pulverized and treated and transformed into water for the grass of the city parks. There, the carrot, now water, sprinkled onto a playground where she could feel the feet of little children and hear the sound of their laughter. The carrot was very happy.

The third and last piece of carrot did not make it to the stew. A spot where a snail had slept against the carrot made the cook toss her into a bucket. She thought she would die for sure, separated from the rest of herself. But the retreat center composted food scraps, and the carrot joined other vegetables and fruits being transported to the garden. The sun shone, the wind blew, the rain fell. Soon, she was no longer her bright orange self, but was transformed into rich black earth. Now she found herself nourishing a new crop of baby carrots, along with the warm sun and sweet rain. And the carrot was very happy.

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Cindy Meier, Refreshing Still Water of the Heart, lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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The Gift of Plum

By Emily White One day, Ocean looked at Sky and thought, “I love Sky so much that I must give him a gift!”

So Ocean took some of her water and made a present. She made Sky a cloud.

Sky was thrilled. He loved his beautiful cloud so much that he laughed out loud and when he laughed his breath formed a gentle breeze that blew Cloud over the land, changing her shape in delightful ways.

This pleased both Sky and Cloud and Ocean very much, so Sky decided to give Cloud a gift, too. He took some of his breath and formed a wind so that Cloud could float over the whole earth.

Cloud was so happy! With Wind’s help, she sailed over mountains and valleys, over lakes and seas. Cloud swelled with love. She was so big with her love for the earth that she thought she would burst. Then she thought, “I must give Earth a present, too!”

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So she took some of her water and sent it down to Earth in little drops shaped like tears. “I love you,” she cried out, as the rain fell.

Earth was very hot and thirsty. The cool rain soaked her skin and she felt fresh and clean. “I must do something to show Cloud how grateful I am,” Earth thought. “What can I do?” She thought and thought.

Finally, she gathered together some of the rain around a little brown seed buried in her soil. At first the seed was as hard as a pebble, but the rain softened it and in no time it sprouted a leaf that pushed up toward the sky.

Pretty soon the sprout burst through the Earth’s skin and for the first time her leaves felt the warmth of Sun’s rays.

“This is wonderful,” thought Tree. “I will grow straight and tall and make many leaves so that Sun will see me and know how much I appreciate his generosity.

Way up in the sky, Sun spotted the green tree and beamed with pleasure. They enjoyed each other for many months.

Tree began to notice that Sun shone less and less each day, and that Moon and Stars spent more time in the night sky. Earth began to shiver ever so slightly with cold, although she never complained.

“Sun must be very tired,” Tree thought. “I will drop my leaves like a blanket over Earth to warm her until Sun has rested.”

“Thank you, Tree,” murmured Earth. “You’re welcome,” whispered Tree.

After a time, Sun’s strength returned and he began to climb higher and higher in the sky. Tree was so happy to see her friend grow strong that she planned a surprise. One night, with the help of Moon, she covered herself in white blossoms.

As the world woke up, she sang, “Look! I am dressed in white stars. I am draped in cloud. I am as white as rain turned into snow. I am as soft as sea foam.”

“Splendid!” her friends cried.

Tree was so pleased with her surprise that she and Wind began to dance and before long every one of her petals had fallen to the ground.

“Oh well,” Tree sighed. “Now I will make new leaves to shade Earth from the hot sun. I will make the stems strong so they will not blow off so easily.”

Many happy weeks went by. Tree began to feel her branches grow heavy with plump juicy fruit. “What is happening to me?”she wondered out loud. “What have I done?”

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“Mother, don’t you recognize us? We are plums. We are your children,” Plum replied. “The blossoms you made left us to grow in their place. We are sweet and delicious. Birds and animals will visit you to feed on us and to scatter our seeds. Then we will grow into trees just like you.”

“Oh, my,” Tree exclaimed. She was quite overcome.

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Just then, a little boy happened by. His eye fastened on the red fruit hanging from the tree like a gift decorated with pretty leaves. He was very hungry—and thirsty, too.

The child reached up and pulled at the plum. Plum let go of the branch.

“Good-bye, mother,” Plum called to Tree.

“Hello, little boy,” Plum said to the child’s outstretched hand.

The boy held Plum gently.

“I must find just the right spot to eat,” he thought.

He sat down on a big rock not far from the tree. He turned the plum over and over in his hand, admiring the rich color and fresh smell.

“How wonderful to have eyes to see this red plum! How wonderful to have a mouth to taste such delicious food! How wonderful to be sitting on this rock today,” he marveled to himself.

Then, very slowly, he bit into the plum. His mouth woke up as from a deep sleep with the sweet taste of Ocean, Wind, Sun, Sky, Earth, Cloud, Rain, Moon, Stars, Tree and even more. In a flash, the boy saw that the whole world was in the plum. If the whole world was in the plum, then the whole world was in him, too.

When the little boy smiled, Plum smiled. When Plum smiled, Tree smiled. When Tree smiled, Sun smiled. When Sun smiled, Earth smiled. When Earth smiled, Rain smiled. When Rain smiled, Cloud smiled. When Cloud smiled, Wind smiled. When Wind smiled, Sky smiled. When Sky smiled, Ocean smiled. When Ocean smiled, Moon smiled. When Moon smiled, Star smiled. The stars smiled and smiled, all the way to the end of the galaxy and beyond.

And that’s what happens when you smile, too.

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I am Ocean, he thought. I am Earth and Sky. I am Sun and Moon. I am Cloud and Rain. I am Tree and Plum. How wonderful to be all these things and a little boy, too.

Then he gave the best gift a child can give to the world. He smiled.

Emily White, True Wonderful Happiness, practices with the Healing Springs Community of Mindful Living, in Red Springs, North Carolina. She is an independent studio artist and writer, and the author/illustrator of several children’s books and books of poetry. llustrations by Nguyen Thi Hop. She lives and practices in Los Angeles, California.

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The Hare in the Moon

A Traditional Buddhist Tale Retold by Teri West

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Once, in a far-away land, in a time long ago, in a deep forest, lived four friends. They were a jackal — which is a kind of wild dog — an otter, a monkey, and a hare.

The four friends lived very happily together, and what they liked to do best of all was to visit a wise old man who lived in the forest. He spent most of his time sitting peacefully under a tree. He was their friend and teacher, and told them wonderful stories.

One evening, when the moon was full, and the four friends were sitting peacefully under his tree with their friend the wise man, he told them that he had an important lesson for them. He told them that, whenever the moon was full, the friends were to be sure to find someone to help; someone for whom they might do a favour, or perform some service.

The four friends were very excited by this, and for the next few weeks, until the moon was to grow full again, they were each hoping that they would, as their teacher had told them, find someone in need of their help.

The time of the full moon soon came around again. It was a still evening, and the moon began to rise above the tops of the trees, as round as a penny, and silver bright, when into the forest came an old, old woman. She was poorly dressed, and walked slowly. She was thin, and looked as if she had not eaten for a while, and finding a tree to lean against, she sat down to rest.

Soon, the jackal came by, and seeing the old woman, thought that here was someone who looked as if she needed help. The old woman spoke to him. “Dear Brother Jackal, I am tired, and hungry — I haven’t eaten all day — do you think you could find me something to eat?” The jackal was pleased; here was someone who needed help, and he would be able to do as his teacher had asked him. “Just wait here, Grandmother,” he said, “I will find you something to eat!”

The jackal ran off to a place in the forest where he knew that a lion had killed a deer and left some of the meat hidden for when he might be hungry again. The jackal tore off a piece of tender deer meat, ran back to the old woman, and dropped it at her feet.

“Dear Brother Jackal,” she said, “I am sorry, but I have made a promise never to eat the meat of the deer.”

The jackal was a little disappointed that he could not help the old woman, but he had a piece of tender deer meat to take back to his children, and so off he went.

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As the moon rose higher in the sky, the otter came by, and seeing the old woman, thought that here was someone who surely looked as if she needed help. The old woman spoke to him. “Dear Brother Otter, I am tired, and hungry — I haven’t eaten all day— do you think you could find me something to eat?” The otter was pleased; he would be able to do as his teacher had asked him. “Just wait here, Grandmother,” he said, “I will find you something to eat!”

The otter ran to the river, and soon caught a beautiful rainbowcoloured salmon fish, which he carried back to the old woman in his jaws, and dropped it at her feet. “Dear Brother Otter,” she said “I am sorry, but I have made a promise never to eat the flesh of fish.”

The otter was a little disappointed that he could not help the old woman, but he had a fine salmon fish to take back to his children, and so off he went.

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As the moon rose higher and higher in the black night, and the stars began to twinkle merrily, along came the monkey. When the monkey saw the old woman, he thought this was indeed someone who needed his help. The old woman spoke to him. “Dear Brother Monkey, I am tired, and hungry — I haven’t eaten all day — do you think you could find me something to eat?” The monkey was pleased; he would be able to do as his teacher had asked him. “Just wait here, Grandmother,” he said, “I will find you something to eat!”

The monkey scampered away to a mango tree, where he knew the mangos would be perfectly ripe, and climbing right to the top, he picked the largest, juiciest mango, and carrying it carefully back to where the old woman was sitting, he dropped it at her feet. “Dear Brother Monkey,” she said, “I am sorry, but I have made a promise never to eat the fruit of the mango tree.”

The monkey was a little disappointed that he could not help the old woman, but he had a fine mango to take back to his children, and so off he went.

The moon had climbed right to the very top of the sky, when the hare came by, and seeing the old woman, thought that here was someone who looked as if she needed help. The old woman spoke to him. “Dear Brother Hare, I am tired, and hungry, I haven’t eaten all day — do you think you could find me something to eat?” The hare thought and thought, but hares eat leaves, and grasses, and spring flowers, and he knew that human people did not eat such things. Then he thought some more, and said to the old woman, “Grandmother, if you will build a fire, I can give you something to eat!”

So, between them, the old woman and the hare gathered sticks and lit a fire. When the fire was burning brightly, the hare jumped — right into heart of the flames! He was offering himself as a meal for the poor, hungry old woman.

But instead of burning the hare, the flames were cool, and they lifted him up gently and laid him on the grass beside the fire.

When the hare looked back to where the old woman had been, she was not there anymore. In her place was a great being, with shining light all around him, and dressed in glowing saffroncoloured robes. Looking down kindly upon the astonished hare, he said, “For your compassion, and your bravery, in offering yourself as a meal to one who was in need, dear hare, you shall be remembered forever!”

Then, the great being reached out, broke off the tip of a mountain, and on the face of the full moon he drew a picture of a hare.

So, next time you see the moon full and round as a penny and silver-bright, look carefully, and perhaps you will see the hare drawn there with the tip of a mountain, by a great being, long, long ago.

Teri West, True Door of Virtue, is a professional storyteller, singer, musician, and clown who lives on a cliff-top in North Devon, England. She practices with the Westcountry Sangha.

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