On Living and Dying Day 16 by Kristjaan Panneman

Secrets Unveiled

by Kristjaan Panneman of Carpe Diem Haiku Kai


finding peace of mind
the soothing sound of rippling water
the rustling of leaves
strengthens my tired mind
that’s fortitude
deep inner peace, the beating of my heart,
the music of life
caught in the rippling stream –
finding peace of mind

© Chèvrefeuille (pseudonym of Kristjaan Panneman, haiku poet)

Sunday September 3rd 1995:

“You have to come to the hospital immediately”, was what my mother said on the phone. “Your brother is dying.” I sank to my knees screaming and crying. “Not my brother!! Not my brother!!”
My wife knelt next to me and embraced me. “Come we have to go to the hospital, before it is too late.”
We were too late… five minutes before my wife and I arrived, my brother died… a young man 35 years of age… my older (and only) brother.

I remember this like yesterday, but it all took place on September 3rd 1995.

That memory stays forever with me. It was my first real experience with death. I was 32 years old, the youngest of two sons. My brother always said: “I’m the oldest, so you’ll never catch me brother.” I am now 53, I survived him. My brother is still here deep down in my heart forever. I can feel him around me, like a guardian angel.

Secrets Unveiled:

secrets unveiled
through the Wheel of Life
seasons come and go

© Chèvrefeuille

I am the owner and host of Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, a daily haiku meme on blogspot. Recently (February 2016) I had a Theme Week about the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol). Not about that classical book, but the “modern” version written by Sogyal Rinpoche titled “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.” In that Theme Week I brought every day an item based on Sogyal Rinpoche’s book.

I am an oncology nurse and that means that I have to deal with patients who die after their sickbed. Facing death every day was certainly not how I once saw my life and future, however God decided that I had to change my path. He brought this on my path and I am grateful for that every day again.

In my opinion death is part of life and it is certainly not definite, because I believe in reincarnation. If you think that way, death isn’t something to be afraid of. Of course there are other religious (and philosophical) ideas about death and those ideas I certainly respect.

On a journey:

In Buddhism life is a school in which we create our consciousness (and sub-consciousness) and if you didn’t reach that in the proper way than you have to enter a new life after death. However, if you look at the spiritual meaning of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying than it fits the idea that we are all on a journey to find balance in our daily life.

Rinpoche makes a difference between our “ego,” our daily personality, our “I,” the form / shape our psyche has in our body in which we live our life, and the deeper, natural consciousness, which is our essence.
What happens when we die? In fact only our body dies, but our consciousness “rises” to another new state of being, another dimension maybe. That is our rigpa, the absolute nature of spirit, the consciousness before thoughts and emotions occur. Later it will be reborn in another body.

Death is not the absolute end. Our body doesn’t exist anymore, but our consciousness travels on. The idea of dying can be paralyzing, but in this vision death is just a moment of transition. That makes the idea of death lighter: we are travelers, continuous on our way from one world to another.

Finally our consciousness will reach enlightenment, maybe not in this life, but maybe in another life.

ghostly nebulae
covers the old graveyard
cherry blossom blooms

© Chèvrefeuille

phoenix spreads its wings
after the dark cold winter night
finally spring

© Chèvrefeuille

Thinking about death gives life meaning:

We all know that we will die someday. We don’t know when this will happen, or what will be happening. Most of us don’t want to think about dying and in a way we hide for it. As I stated earlier: “death is part of life, it’s the only certainty we have.”

Talking about death is not a daily activity, but according to Sogyal Rinpoche you have to talk about living and dying, because death comes without warning. Try to live your life to the fullest and let death be a part of it. Of course there is no need to talk 24/7 about death, but it should certainly not be paralyzing to talk about it.

In my work as an oncology nurse I experience in so many different ways how people, patients and their loved ones, are talking about life and death. There are patients who do not dare to talk about death, and other patients talk freely about death and in particular their own death. They see death as part of their life and then you really can see and learn how life has to be celebrated.

This is what Sogyal Rinpoche says about this: “You have to be busy with the things you find important.”

For example: if you like to read, read; if you like to paint, paint; if you like to write novels or poems, write… enjoy every moment of your life. It’s too short to leave things as they are. Experience life. If you dream about visiting countries go… make that journey. It’s similar with what people do if they make a so called “bucket-list,” things they want to do.

Meditate and contemplate about your life and if your life is too busy, than set it on hold. Take a step back… look at your life… and think about the things you find important. Maybe this will help: Dare to be honest with yourself, try to imagine when will I die, in which year my life will end, in which month. What’s happening in the world around you. Enjoy your life… let death be part of it.

Let me tell you how I am looking at my life:

I have a wonderful life, I enjoy it to the fullest. I had goals and those goals I have reached… what do I want in the future? Do I have dreams? Of course one of them is to visit Japan and I hope it will become true, but that’s not up to me.

I have a family in which children and grandchildren are the most important. I spend a lot of time with them and… of course there is me… the haiku poet and as once said to me… I am a sensei, a master and I enjoy that very much.

Yes I think about death. Death is part of my life, not only through my work, but also in private life. It’s not something we don’t talk about.

Celebrate life and let death be part of it. Life gives meaning as you think about death without being anxious or sad … What would you do if you knew that you are facing death… right at this moment!?

Life and Death are each other’s best friends:

Death, in my opinion, is part of life, without thinking about death we cannot live our life, or even better … without thinking about death we cannot celebrate life. Look around you enjoy nature, enjoy the everlasting movement of the seasons in which life and death are each other’s best friends. If you look at living and dying as being part of nature, part of being human… then death can give meaning to life.

in the backyard
the old Sakura has lost his blossom
until next spring

© Chèvrefeuille

This is how I see life and death… there will be a new beginning always…


photoMy name is Kristjaan Panneman, I am married with children and live in The Netherlands. I was born in 1963 as the youngest of two. After an awesome time on school I started studying nursing. I became a registered nurse and did several follow-up studies. In 2011 I became an oncology nurse. I am working at a local hospital in my hometown.

In 1988 I discovered haiku, that wonderful little poem from Japan. First I wrote my haiku in Dutch, but later I started to write in English. My first haiku in English I published on the WWW and not long after that I started my first weblog about haiku.

Not so long ago I started Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, a daily haiku meme on blogspot. You can find Carpe Diem Haiku Kai at: http://chevrefeuillescarpediem.blogspot.com

I write my haiku (and other Japanese poetry forms) under the pseudonym Chèvrefeuille, which is French for Honeysuckle.


Written for the On Living and Dying series.  If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: 365 Days On Living and Dying.  But first leave a comment and let Kristjaan know how you feel about what he said, and be sure to visit him over at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, when you’re done.


Featured image via http://thedestinationblog.com/5-portuguese-secrets-unveiled-guardian/

About the author

I am a King without a Kingdom, in a world with many masters, wrapped in the spoils of a jealous heart, and my people’s callous laughter.


  1. It’s really cool that you’re bringing some of the traditional teachings on living and dying here. Well I guess it is traditional depending on which school you’re coming from. Love your poetry. Your life has certainly led you to a place where living and dying is a very real meditation for you. Thank you for bringing your knowledge here.

    1. It was a honor to create this post for you Sreejit. It’s one of my goals to learn people that they have to accept death as part of their life than life will be more beautiful and can really be celebrated.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your contribution to the Living and Dying event. Cheryl-Lynn Roberts is a blogging friend of mine and I know of you through her. I feel grateful to have met you in this way. You and I share many of the same beliefs about living and dying.

  3. Ah, Kristjaan, you have set the bar in writing this as our haiku master and mentor. I must share this on my blog so our Haijin family can see. You introduced me to The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying through lessons and translating our learnings in the form of haiku. Since then I am reading this book and am exploring my own thoughts as I shuffle slowly through each page…life does have more meaning when death is part of the equation. Chapeau mon cher Chèvrefeuille! 😉

      1. I drafted a post but need to work my narrative more…your post is so thought provoking. I’ve shared on Google+ as well as Facebook. Great post, Kristjaan.

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