When he opened his eyes, Kisa Gotami was on the ground in front of him, weeping. Her face was swollen, her eyes nearly shut, her sari was streaked with dirt and her hair was dusted with it.
"You must help me!" she screamed. Ananda moved toward her, but Sidatta shook his head slightly.
"I will help you. Tell me why you have come."
"My son! My only son! He has died. He fell sick and died yesterday. The doctors tried all they knew but weren't able to save him. One of them told me that you could save him, even though he is dead."
"I can save him. I will make him a medicine that you must give to him, but you must gather the ingredients and bring them to me."
"Anything," the woman said, her body slumping into the dirt in relief. "I will go anywhere, bring you whatever you require. Only tell me and I will go."
"You must bring me a handful of mustard seeds."
The woman looked up, her face pulled into a mask of grief. "Do not torment me this way. I have lost my son and mustard seeds cannot bring him back."
"If you do not believe I can do this, why have you come?"
The woman bowed her head. "I will bring you the mustard seeds."
"Just a handful," the Buddha replied. "And please, this part is important. You must get the mustard seeds from a house that has never known death. You must find the house where no child, parent, grandparent, brother, sister or servant has ever died. Find that house, get the mustard seeds, and bring them to me."
The woman ran from the courtyard raining praises on Sidatta, vowing to return shortly.
She stopped at every house she came to and asked whether there had ever been a death there, and at each door, the answer was yes. Here, a parent. Here, a child. Here, a brother, a grandparent, a servant. There were some whose grief was old and worn, and some whose grief was fresher than her own. Through her own village, and those to the east, west, north and south she ran. Her hair became wild, her clothes torn.
But even as her dress and demeanor became more disheveled, her mind became calm. She understood that the only remedy was the knowledge that death must come to all, and the only medicine to cure it was enlightenment. And with that knowledge, she returned to Sidatta's feet.