慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
ECHO OF THE HEART: Reincarnation
As a Buddhist, I have often been asked if I believe in reincarnation. The questioners must have found it amusing to watch me scratch my head and struggle for a response. I must confess: I've normally taken this basic Buddhist concept with a grain of salt. Luckily, my bewilderment on this issue was unexpectedly resolved when my wife, Jeanny, and I went to visit Master Cheng Yen at the Kaohsiung branch of the Tzu Chi Foundation on December 3, 2015.
 
When we arrived at the Master’s reception room, she was busy talking to a large group of Tzu Chi honorary board members from Taipei. As we were waiting outside the room, Josephine Lee (李憶慧), a dedicated senior Tzu Chi commissioner, arrived. We three sat together and struck up a conversation.
 
“How’s Grace?” Jeanny asked.
 
“Well, she’s gone, but she’s been back for about three years,” Josephine calmly replied.
 
Both Jeanny and I were puzzled by this enigmatic answer. Seeing our confusion, Josephine explained that Grace (陳伊瑩), her daughter, had died of leukemia on March 30, 2013, at the age of 36. But then she added that Master Cheng Yen had said that Grace had been reborn.
 
I’d known Grace for over a decade, and I’d always been amazed at her intelligence and versatility. She was a superb saxophone and vibraphone player. After finishing her studies of psychology, economics, and music at the University of California in San Diego, she decided to go to law school to help guard the rights of underprivileged people. Before making this decision, she went to consult with Master Cheng Yen, who had always treated Grace as her granddaughter. Grace knew the Master didn’t like her disciples to choose law as a profession, but to her surprise, the Master gave her blessing—with one admonition: “You can study law only if you don’t confuse right and wrong, or talk black into white in the future.”
 
Grace earned her LL.D. at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, and subsequently passed her bar examination in 2002. Now a lawyer as well as a certified financial planner, she found her first job in a prestigious law firm in Beverly Hills, and she was soon promoted to the position of group leader due to her remarkable performance. “However,” Josephine explained, “she quit three years later because she found that her job required her to ‘confuse right and wrong and talk black into white’ almost every day!”
 
After that, Grace happily went to work for a consulting firm in Los Angeles, where she was responsible for designing welfare programs for the employees of client companies. She was jubilant when she learned that her boss and colleagues were all supporters of Tzu Chi. They even joined with Grace in Tzu Chi’s “food to the poor” distribution programs during the weekends. Grace met Johan Alwall, a high-energy physicist from Sweden, in February 2008. They fell in love and were married in March 2011. It seemed Grace was leading a charmed life until a month after her wedding, when fate played a cruel joke on her: She was diagnosed with leukemia.
 
Grace’s younger brother donated bone marrow for a transplant in September 2011, and Grace’s health improved. However, she had a relapse in November 2012 and was sent to Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital in eastern Taiwan. A week later she fell into a deep coma, and she never woke up again. On March 29, 2013, a doctor told Josephine that Grace could no longer breathe on her own, as her cerebrum had stopped functioning. At that news, Josephine reminded her husband, two sons, and Alwall that they should not selfishly keep Grace from leaving. She whispered to Grace, “You’re no longer Grace, nor are you our daughter. Go to your next life, and don’t let your new mom wait too long.” Grace’s heart stopped beating at 9 a.m. on March 30.
 
Master Cheng Yen heard the sad news that morning, and she rushed to the hospital to see Grace around 11 a.m. After bending down and saying a few words to her, the Master lifted up her head and told Josephine, “She has been reborn to the world….”
 
I felt goosebumps emerge all over my body as I listened to Josephine relate this story. I’m glad to know that Grace has come back to the world again, and from now on I will share with confidence this fascinating story with anyone who asks me about reincarnation.
 
 
Dedicated Tzu Chi volunteers Josephine (left) and her daughter, Grace
Photo courtesy of Josephine Lee

 

Spring 2016