Friday, July 22, 2011

A Death In The Family

Roger knocked hard on my door last night just as I was thinking of going to bed; David C had been found dead. Down on the second floor, I hugged one of his closest friends, and she sobbed on my shoulder for a while. People were down in the Buddha Hall chanting, she said, but she wanted to stay up here closer to his room. I went to join the chanting, the Dai Hi Shin Dharani and the Sho Sai Myo, and fetched a chant sheet from a recent memorial service so that we could close with the usual dedication.
I made the decision that we should ring the 108 bells in the morning so that everyone would have a chance to participate, and went around putting together the elements for that, and finding the service that we did the morning after Jerome's death, and Lou's; we found his dharma name, and I put name cards and photos on the altars. When the body left the building with the medical examiner, about twenty of us accompanied it onto the street, softly chanting the Enmei Jukku over and over until the ambulance had turned the corner, then we returned inside with our arms around each other.
I practised with David for a number of years, first at Tassajara, and then here. He was always so likeable, easy-going, smart, with a line in self-deprecating humour, beneath which was a deep and ongoing struggle around self-worth. I used to think of him as being like one of the monks in the great assembly of the koan stories - not the ones the stories would be about, but one of those practising diligently and hoping for their own breakthrough. Recently things had been hard for David, not finding a job despite having recently finished a couple of years at school. I had talked to him last week about things that were coming up for him, an offer from a friend to go and live back on the east coast that he was conflicted about. There had been a lot of discussion this week among senior people about how we could support him through these challenges, but in the end, all the support and the good-will of a close community cannot always be enough if someone's mind is not at ease.

David at the work circle in Tassajara

David as benji after Ren's shuso ceremony

David with Stephen on the Stone Office lawn, a picture I always felt summed up life at Tassajara in the winter


Renshin Judy Bunce said...

Oh my sweet Code-man. I think, of course, of our time at Tassajara, of working the compost together -- or, rather, of your working the compost while I stood around and talked. Of driving the benji truck down to the flats while Ginger sat between us and you showered affection on her. Of your endless worrying about the benji poem, which was one of the great ones, which brought tears to my eyes when you read it.

Today the tears in my eyes are different.

May this sad step put an end to your suffering. May you find ease. May you find the love you were looking for.


DonkeyBuster said...

I was only at CC for a short time, but Cody was one of the sweet presences that I shall always remember. So sad he is gone, thank all of you for your efforts to support him, & great love to everyone at CC during this latest great transition.


Amy Parker said...

Intimacy sometimes means getting your heart torn out. I loved Dave Coady even at his most maddening. I want to vomit, to reject this news even as I am not surprised. Guilt, shock, sadness, tenderness, anger...

we were doans together, we squabbled like children and shared our experiences with depression and self worth.

He could come up behind me when I was in a funk, say something brief and pungent and make me roll on the floor laughing. Streaks of dust on the back of my robes from laughter.

Getting frowned at by the Ino next to the samovar for laughing so hard during silence--laughing. So much laughing.

And watching Dave Coady offer up his questions during shuso ceremonies was one of the most beautiful dharma teachings I've ever experienced.

We hugged, but not enough. We laughed, but not enough. We practiced.

Why can't the precepts hold this? Why aren't they big enough to turn aside suffering? At moments like this my own faith flashes up in outrage.


Shundo said...

Thank you all for your comments and good wishes - I have also received emails today from sangha members far and wide, as the shock reverberates. Amy, I miss having you around. Please come and visit if you can.

cohahn said...

Dear friends,

I am David's brother, Stephen. I had the pleasure of meeting some of you while visiting with David a few years back. As a family we are reeling from David's death. It is hard to adequately express the gratitude we have and the comfort we experience reading about the love, care and affection David received from his Zen Center and Tassajara family. Reading about many escorting David's body as it was carried from the house with chanting and tenderness has eased our minds. Knowing that prayers were being offered is a wonderful gift. It suggests he was not alone on his way to wherever and that he was loved where he lived. We hope to be able to thank some of you in-person and that those who had the difficult task of discovering David and contacting me with the news are not overwhelmed. My brother Michael and I will be out this week to make arrangements for David's cremation and to go through his things. At some point we hope to return and have a small ceremony for David. He was a warm and gentle brother and I miss him terribly as does all my family. I will be in touch with Jisan Tova Green.

With deep gratitude and respect,

Stephen Coady

Shundo said...

Stephen, thank you for writing this. We are all so sorry for your loss, and you and the rest of your family have all our sympathies. I remember meeting you when you were here a year or so ago, and I felt glad that you and David seemed so close and supportive of each other. I am sad that your next visit is under such different and painful circumstances, but I hope we can be of some support in your grieving.

Shinzan Dainin Trevor said...

My comment from the Great Leap memorial page thing:

David was a dear friend of mine. I think we both did our first summer at Tassajara together, in 2004, and I know for sure that we went to GGF together that fall, and then back to Tassajara in the January 2005. He was at Tassajara the whole time I was there, I’m pretty sure, and then spent another year or so there after I moved to the City. When he moved back to the City, I was really happy to have him around.

I remember running into him on a trail in the mountains above Tassajara. I suggested that we hike together, as we had before, but he politely and sheepishly declined. He said he was having such a fine time alone in the forest, looking out for birds and lizards, enjoying the stunning scenery, and just being alone in that amazing wilderness. I of course totally understood, and I think we made plans to catch up with each later in the day. That’s how I want to remember David – so at ease and enjoying his quiet life – but of course, there was much more to him than that.

He was one of a handful of City Center folks that I hung out with “after hours” and on the weekends, often dragging him down to Momi Toby’s in the evenings, buying him a beer or two. David was one of a few people I made it a point to keep in touch with after I left SF for Austin. He was hilarious. He was incredibly gentle with everyone, as far as I could tell. He found the practice difficult, and he practiced sincerely. He was a sweet man. (And there are few people I would say that about.) I loved him very much, and so did a lot of other people. Something kept him from believing it, however.

During one summer at Tassajara, I had a habit of reading at the window of my room just when David happened to be getting off of work, and he would walk past my window on the path to his place, like clockwork. I would try to predict when he would walk by, so that I could be doing something weird/stupid as he walked by – picking my nose, attempting a headstand, standing there with no shirt on. One day he walked by and without even turning to face the window, he flipped me the bird! That started a long-running inside joke where we would try to find the most stupid, inappropriate ways to flip each other off – while passing each other in the hallway, working in the kitchen, serving oryoki to each other, sitting across from each other in service. It got to a point where we wouldn’t even have to flip the bird; we’d just look at each other and laugh and shake our heads at our stupid, stupid joke.

We also liked to pretend that the colander in the kitchen was the Starship Enterprise, and we’d sing the Star Trek theme whenever we used it.

Yup, David and I were great practitioners of the Way. Dogen Zenji would be proud!

I’m cracking up as I type this, and now I’m crying, too. I wish you were still hear with us, David. I wish I could come visit you in SF. I wish you could come down to Austin and hang out for a few days. I wish I could call you up and talk with you about the latest Zen Center gossip and whatever else.

When he was benji, he was so nervous to write and read his poem for the shuso ceremony. “Don’t worry about it, David,” I told him, “Everyone loves you. Your poem will be just fine,” and I was right.

He wrote, “How beings with nothing to hold on to find joy, compassion, and forgiveness is beyond miraculous.” David, I wish you could have seen the joy, compassion, and forgiveness that your friends were so willing to give you. I miss you terribly.

If anyone reading this is suffering from depression or similar disorders, please get the help that you need, and please know that you are more worthy of love than you can know.

Shundo said...

Thanks for sharing this Trevor - I can hear the two of you laughing together...

James P. Coady-Hahn said...

I am James Coady-Hahn, Stephen's husband, and David's brother-in-law. We are heartbroken. We love David very much and miss him. I am so happy the entire immediate Coady clan was able to spend a week together at Pawley's Island, SC, in April 2011. We had a great time. It was the first, and last time, we got to all travel together as a family. It is extremely comforting to family to see all the wonderful posts from David's Tassajara family. While David could have come back to Boston and we certainly wanted that for us, we knew David was happier there so we encouraged him to try to make it work there. It took great strength of character and great will to restart your life thousands of miles away. We admired and respected David so much for that and we tried to convey that to him but he never could understand that. He was too hard on himself while being sweet and gentle to all others. If only he could treat himself like he did others. We are so proud of David and wish we could TRY to tell him, one last time. May his sweet soul find in death what it never found in life. We love you, David.

Forever David's brother,

James P. Coady-Hahn

Shundo said...

Thank you James, our thoughts are with you and all the family.

Marianne Jago-Bassingthwaighte said...

Thank you Shundo, for explaining what happened, as much as we can really know. That we can practice for Coady is some small consolation. Bless.
Marianne Jago-Bassingthwaighte

Shundo said...

Hi Marianne - thanks for writing. You know you were in the first picture on this post, of David at the work circle: you were sitting on the ground and the two of you were chatting right before work meeting. I always liked the intimacy of the picture, but I cropped you out on this occasion. Let me know if you want me to send you the original.

Cricket said...

I would have loved to have known David, and reading all of your comments here, I'm so sorry for the sadness you are carrying in your hearts right now. I'm crying and I didn't know him. I remember David from tiny moments of meeting along the path at Tassajara -- the kindness in his eyes, a kind of full-body twinkle, his smile.

This haiku from Masahide has been a comfort to me at some hard times, and I hope it may be so for you.

"Since my house burned down,
I now own a better view
of the rising moon."

May all of you who loved him be at peace as well.


Shundo said...

Thank you Cricket - I love the image of the full-body twinkle, it really captures something about how sweet he was.

Myomon said...

I spent only one practice period and parts of some summers with David, and I am in shock. I had heard about him from Tassajara folk while there this past two PPs, and it sounded like things were going well....One small thing I remember about him, which was comparing notes about what happened (this before I stopped wearing all jewelry) to silver in the plunge. He wore a ring that was black with the hot springs' effect.

We will chant for him in Chapel Hill. My thoughts are with the SFZC mahasangha.

Jerry said...

I remember being at Green Gulch the night the Red Socks came back against the Yankees to go to the World Series...He was so happy! He was jumping around cloud hall but trying to maintain silence at the same time..classic. I will miss him..

Shundo said...

Thank you both

Elizabeth Muia said...

It is amazing how simple acts of kindness can never be forgotten with someone I knew for such a short period of time.

I was at Tassajara in 2007 and I remember David vividly. I was new to the community and my teacher was not well when I had left for Tassajara. I remember David's bright sparkling blue eyes and his smile. He was nothing but kindness to me. He extended himself to make me feel welcome and supported. I had the pleasure of being on his serving crew during my visit (he was so funny!) And we also had the opportunity to talk about our struggles and joys in life.

David, I send you lots of love.

I send his family and friends my deepest sympathy.

In gratitude for our meeting,

Shundo said...

Hello Elizabeth, Thank you for your comment. I hope you are doing well wherever you are.

Anonymous said...

I posted this on Brad's Hardcore Zen Blog,
but thought it might belong here too:

'suicide is stupid' is just another way of saying 'all words fail'

I have come to know of this man, David Coady, only through this blog and the link here to the announcement of his death and responses made by various sfzc members who knew him.
Yet, after reading all this during my lunch break while sitting at my desk today tears streamed down my face I was glad no one interrupted me taking my late lunch. It was a 'good cry', up there among the best of 'good cries' and for a man I've never seen and friends of his I've never met.

I see no difference: heart attack, blood clot, suicide:
Something gives out, something can't do it no more. Whether it's the heart, the vein, the lung, the 'will to go on'... something can't do it no more.

The ripple we are/were continues to ripple.

"There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no cessation of suffering, and no path.
There is no wisdom and no attainment."

I am very heartened by the image of paramedics removing this man's body in an impromptu procession with the chanting of the enmei jukku,
how beautiful is that?

wandering spirit
without the ghost of a holy notion
nor hunger or thirst have you any
swallowed whole
the whole of it
nothing to seek
such is this caress of the wind

(in other words...words fail)

Shundo said...

Thank you for sharing this here.

dot kos said...

I'm not aware of proscription, as such, of choosing to end one's life, in Buddhism. It seems to me the ultimate self-determination. Who is to say how we die has any better or worse meaning? I didn't know Coady, but I do know for some, death is freedom.The sorrow comes from our own suffering.

Shundo said...

Hi dot, what comes up for me around this is the line from the Eihei Kosu Hotsuganmon: 'Save this life which is the fruit of many lives'. We do read that it is rare to be born with a human form and rarer still to hear the teachings, so we should make the most of this 'pivotal opportunity'.