This fourth blog post is dedicated to KALEB and GENE, the two individuals in my close circle who died last month. In many Zen monasteries, there is a block of wood called the Han. It is struck with a mallet to call the monks to zazen/meditation.
The following verse or one like it conventionally is written on the Han, and in some ways it is the most central text of Zen.
Kaleb and Gene’s deaths brought it to my mind with special poignancy:
Great is the matter of birth and death,
Life is fleeting. Gone, gone.
Awake. Awake each one!
Don’t waste this life!
For the past four years, with much help, I have been fortunate to have the renewed strength to go out, and thus I was able to meet several times with Kaleb and Gene. Getting to know them a little was a real honor.
Their deaths make me vow to never forget how it is such an honor to meet any one; their deaths leave a void in the fabric of life and those who lived with them longer especially can feel this; I often hear their grief and wish to let them know I am with them. Many people helped me to meet Kaleb and Gene, and it would be impossible to thank them all here: an entire life brought me to where I am today.
However, I can thank here the individuals who in the recent past made these meetings possible. Greg, my partner, first comes to mind: the two individuals who passed away so recently are in his family. Since neither he nor I can afford taking the plane and we do not have a car, many people help us get from point A to point B. The past Holiday season made that very clear: we went to Los Angeles three times and are due for a fourth one at the end of next month.
Each time, we drove the six or seven hours with Gus,
thank you Gus.
In order to go to his house from our place (and vice versa), it takes over an hour.
At Thanksgiving, early in the morning, Lin picked us up and drove us directly to Gus’ house,
thank you Lin.
On the way back, my son Martin picked us up at Gus and drove us home, he did this several times this Holiday season,
thank you Martin.
At Christmas, we decided to take public transportation in order to get out of the countryside where we live and meet Lin closer to his place. Unfortunately, due to the Holiday schedule we ended up having to hitchhike in order to make it to the meeting place with Lin,
thank you to the Lexus owner who gave us the fifteen minutes ride.
This list of thanks is incomplete, many others have helped me with transportation over the past few years: Manuela, Katie, Tom, Allison, Penelope, Bill, Dale, Annmarie…even if I forget to thank you here, in my heart I have not forgotten how much I need to thank you. You all help me see how generosity exists in each of us, a reality that, especially when I was ill over four years ago, I found difficult to believe in.
All these travels are at time hard on me. At one of the Los Angeles recent events, I limped in pain for fifteen minutes which seemed like an eternity, when my lower back seems to be screaming. It had been a while since I had thus limped, and I then realized once again that though I am much stronger I have to still be careful.
REMEMBERING KALEB AND GENE.
P.S. Dear friend John also died last week