These days my heart is heavy. It seems as though everything I thought I could count on is fading away. The economy has placed a terrible burden on everyone I know, and has hit publishing especially hard, resulting in the brief [hopefully] suspension of my beloved, little magazine. It’s kept me on the verge of tears for quite a number of weeks – it has been such a big part of how I define myself – and I felt as though it was a little bit like a child. But they say when one door closes another opens, and that doorway has gratefully led to more teaching, including the opportunity to instruct the stress management portion of the Ornish Program for the reversal of heart disease at Stamford Hospital.
Lucky for me that through all of my angst I have been able to pour out my worries and fears to my friend and teacher Sudharma, an 80-year-old Buddhist nun who had recently been living in London. Somehow Sudharma always knew exactly how to snap me out of my pity parties and would often admonish me by saying things like: “Why you worry you no more fancy famous editor? You do mush better work for people who suffer with heart.” When I shared my money concerns she reminded me about what was really important: “Having big house or new car or fancy things not make you rich. What in your heart make you rich. Love make you rich.”
Then last Friday I received the unbelievable news that my dear friend had passed away. She had a heart attack, and then during open-heart surgery, a stroke. She was gone. I can’t find the words to describe how I feel; devastated is a feeble understatement. We had been making so many plans for her visit this summer. She even wanted my daughter to take her surfing. The sadness is incredible.
Sudharma left behind no worldly riches – only her robes and her mala beads – but the richness of her life is evident. She was devoted to helping all those less fortunate, and worked tirelessly in homeless shelters. She spent years raising money for orphanages all around the world. In the last year of her life, she worked endless hours to start a home for girls who had suffered terribly in the sex trafficking trade in her homeland of Burma [Myanmar]. Sudharma had to battle all kinds of obstacles but the determination of her compassionate heart persevered and the home was finally opened. When the news of her passing spread through the Buddhist community, hundreds of nuns and monks sat in an all-night meditation vigil to honor the woman who had been their teacher and their friend.
Susharma lived a life of love and compassion. She loved to laugh and drink jasmne tea. She loved Buddha, her friends and the beach, and the fragrance and beauty of flowers shimmering in the early morning sun. She was the richest woman I ever knew.
I have nearly three hundred emails from my dear friend and someday, when the tears have stopped I will print each of them and keep them with me always. She sent me many Buddhist prayers and offered me such loving guidance. I know her words and her heart will continue to light my path, and when I’m getting a little too caught up in ‘Rita’s World’ I’ll try to remember that being a fancy, famous editor isn’t what defines me . It ‘s the love I hold in my heart.
I love you very much Sudharma. May your heart be at ease. May your heart be at peace.