March 12, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the age of 56.
Fastforward to May 15ish and put into Palliative at Lady Minto Hospital not thought to live long. Bedridden. On the 18th Lama Phuntsok was summoned to the bedside for long life prayers, prayers of compassion and would give Leon the mantra Om Mani Padme Hung to chant meaning “The light is in your heart.” – THAT NIGHT Leon begins to walk around appearing that all is well. He would continue walking and talking like this while having family visits, touring the island on day trips (even “escaping” from the hospital for his own 3 hour walking tour) and enjoying drives in the van as a passenger.
May 31st he takes a turn for the worse and completely loses his voice and begins struggling to breathe.
June 1st my mother has a conversation with him detailing their life together, the love they shared, the great times, that all will be well when he leaves and that he is free to choose his own time to exit this life. Shortly after this conversation he falls into a DEEP clear, quiet sleep with no struggling – like a baby. SIXTEEN hours of deep sleep later he would wake at 6a on June 2, 2013.
Upon waking I (Gaurang) sat with him at his bedside and shared a practice of powa in the Tibetan tradition – simply put, visualizing a diety or light in the sky in front of you then visualizing your heart as light and fusing the two together to become one – a practice of purification. At roughly 645a Mom (Catherine – his wife, my mother) decided to go home to collect some things. I told her that likely Leon, out of his love for her, would choose to leave his body when she was not present. With this awareness and acceptance Catherine decided to give him the space to take this time.
For the next 1h15m I would sit in meditation on Leon’s hospital bed while Leon breathed quietly. I chose the purification mantra of Vajrasattva to chant out loud in rhythm with Leon’s breath.
As Leon’s breath shortened I changed to simply Om to match the exhale. As Leon exhaled I would continue to match it with OM, periodically hearing OM sounding from Leon’s voice. As the breath became shorter and shorter I would let out short bursts of air to clear the pressure in the chest.
At the completion, opening my eyes, I looked over to Leon who opened his eyes wide and looked squarely at me; slowly he closed his eyes parting his mortal body with no struggle, no holding, simply from one moment to the next letting go peacefully, fully aware and consciously choosing that moment to depart. My mother returned less than 3 minutes afterwards. She said she would have been there sooner but was held back to sort out balancing coffees and overnight bags – probably Leon’s doing.
For the next 2 hours we would continue prayers. On the 3rd hour Lama Shenpen arrived to lead a Chenrezig “The Lord of Compassion” practice (once in English, once in Tibetan) At 1145a as we finished the pujas completely he was still warm to the touch and only began to become cool at the completion of all pujas. At the 5th hour when the funeral home came to collect Leon’s body he would still be warm to the touch of his head and back. Beautiful! A True Master! A true inspiration to all! That we may all be blessed with the courage, grace and bravery at meeting the moment of our final exhale as Leon did would be a true testament to a beautifully completed circle of life.
Forevermore I will remain inspired by Leon’s conscious choice of exiting at the moment he chose for himself in a beautifully relaxed, calm, clear mind. Not for a moment did he struggle, shake, twitch or move – he calmly exited his mortal frame. Leaving behind a fully intact body as he left it. Beautiful. Thank you Leon for blessing me as a witness to a True Master. OM Mani Padme Hung.