Monday I learned that Yvonne Rand, one of my teachers in this life, has entered hospice to do her dying. An accomplished Soto Zen priest, Yvonne came to teach with me at InsightLA in the early days. Yvonne has lived a life that has given so much to so many, born of her love of art, beauty, meditation, and compassion. Her big heart and keen intelligence knew how to take expert care of birds, orchids, gardens, people, the Dharma, zazen, the dying and the dead, with clear-eyed equanimity. She kept a special tray in her zendo with carefully dried skeletons of creatures, whole dead birds, insects, their silent delicacy a memento mori, a reminder of mortality.
I will always be grateful for Yvonne’s warm, loyal support and hospitality during a difficult time in my life. Grief would be forgotten as I perched on a stool in Yvonne and Bill’s kitchen in Muir Beach prepping food for divine dinners. Once when I was sleeping up in a little loft in their house, Yvonne saw my stash of chocolate (i had brought almost five pounds to last for 10 days of retreat), raised her eyebrows and mused about it in the kindest way. Yvonne carried deep compassion and humility, the power of her practice revealed in ever changing flashes of tenderness, ferocity and strong, steady presence.
Yvonne’s zendo in Muir Beach had two framed calligraphies by Suzuki Roshi, one on each side of the altar. Translated from his elegant Japanese brushstrokes, one says, “Never Say Too Late”, the other, “It Takes As Long As It Takes”. Yvonne always knew it is never too late to begin again. Our lives unexpectedly change, and each time we must begin anew. Living here and now, with each mindful step we can contribute to the slow unfolding of love and redemption in the world.
Yvonne, may you feel yourself surrounded by the love of countless beings, seen and unseen, all of us grateful for your great gifts of Dharma, generous hospitality, boundless blessings, care, and love. I will always love you! And may others join me sending love to you, to those who were killed and hurt in Beirut, to all who are sick and dying with Covid, to all beings who need our love.