Perhaps you’ve heard of this common myth: Death comes in three’s. While I’m not sure where this myth originated from, or what basis, if any, it holds in actual reality, I do know that I am currently experiencing it. This morning I found out that someone I know passed away last night: Brother Phap De, a monastic from Deer Park Monastery, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Phap De is the third person I know who’s passed away in the last month.
I’d gotten to know Phap De (pictured below holding the hands of two children during an outdoor walking meditation this past January) on my winter retreat stays at Deer Park over the last three years. Most notably, I spent time with him doing stick exercises, as he led them most mornings after sitting meditation. I greatly enjoyed his presence and approach to practice, the way he’d always remind us to smile while doing the exercises, his kind-heartedness, and his grandfatherly warmth.
It took me a little while, but I finally found some words I had written on this blog last year, during my retreat stay at Deer Park, that pertained to Brother Phap De. They bring a bright smile to my face!
Written on January 17th, 2015:
Oh how I enjoy seeing Brother Phap De cruising around on his roller blades circling the meditation hall with his ear buds in listening to music. He is in his late 70’s, I would guess, and skates around with energy and ease
Written on January 13th, 2015:
We had our morning sitting in the big hall at 5:45am followed by stick exercise. At the end of our exercises the Brother who leads (I guess I didn’t know his name yet) them was making an announcement about tomorrow’s schedule and then inquired as to whether we do some kind of dancing meditation down in Clarity Hamlet. Of the women present none of us knew to what he was speaking about. He then went on to say that yesterday he noticed from the Brothers hamlet that a diva was dancing the polka down in the parking lot. I smiled to myself and raised my hand and said, “That was me!” He then said we should offer some sort of dancing meditation tomorrow as part of our lay friends day, at which point I swiftly exited stage right (as I did not want to head that up). Yesterday as I was waiting for our 10:00am meet up to go hiking I put my i-pod on and danced around the parking lot in the sunshine with my earbuds in. I’ve been randomly chuckling to myself all day at the Brother’s description of me. I’ve never been called a diva before and the dancing I do has never been called the polka, to my knowledge. I just love the coupling of those words: diva dancing the polka. I don’t even really know what the polka consists of. I’m not even really sure I know what a diva is, although the ideas I have are not flattering or positive. Polka dancing diva – that’s me!
A diva-dancing-the-polka! Ha! I love it! I will hold this honorific title fondly in my heart, dear Brother. And I will miss you, my friend.
In Honor and Memory of Brother Phap De
From Deer Park Monastery
Who passed away on August 4th, 2016
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May love hold you in the hollow of her hands.
(Brother Phap De used to lead us in singing this slightly altered Irish Blessing when longer term layfriends would depart from Deer Park)
I also found this video of Brother Phap De, doing the morning temple bell and chanting, that I took on January 22nd, 2015 during the winter retreat at Deer Park. While it’s only 2-minutes long, not of very good quality, and filmed in the pitch dark of a pre-dawn morning, it is still very lovely :)
The first part of his chanting is in English, and written out below, the second part I think may be in Latin?
“Listening to the bell
I feel my afflictions begin to dissolve
My mind is calm
My Body relaxed
A smile appears on my lips”