Suddenly and Without Warning
By MELVIN McLEOD, Editor-in-Chief
an old Buddhist saying that death comes suddenly and without warning.
That contemplation helps us to live each day with the wisdom that comes
from knowing it might be our last. In the modern world, of course, with
our medical knowledge and long life expectancy, death usually comes with
considerable warning and preparation. But it did not for Raymond
Raymond was a much-loved colleague at the Shambhala Sun for
twelve years. He was assistant circulation manager, on the face of it a
rather dry and geeky job. But Raymond was just the opposite: fun,
cheerful, gentle, and outgoing. He was a committed Christian, a
political activist, and a leader of the LGBT community in Nova Scotia.
He made our lives here at the Sun more enjoyable, interesting, and meaningful.
died violently in the early hours of April 17th. He intervened in an
assault that was taking place outside the gay and lesbian bar where he’d
been enjoying the company of friends. The assailant, a large man with a
history of violence, had been given an unescorted pass from a forensic
psychiatric hospital. He turned on Raymond and killed him there on the
that day I went into Raymond’s office. I saw his running shoes on the
floor, his Obama “Hope” poster we both loved, and the pen on his desk he
had casually left there the night before, certainly expecting to pick
it up again the next morning. As we all would.
Years ago we published a Zen calligraphy in the Sun that I’ve often pondered. It was the character shi—“death”—and
the inscription read, “One who penetrates here is truly a great
person.” For death is the great original koan, particularly one that
comes suddenly and without warning. A pen left on a desk, and no one
there in the morning to pick it up—this I confess I cannot penetrate.
What I have seen clearly since Raymond’s death is love. So much love.
the evening of his death a thousand people gathered on the street where
Raymond was killed to express their love for him. They talked about his
caring and quirky character and the way he brought people together with
gentleness and consideration. He was described as an activist without
anger, and following his example, none was expressed that evening.
Here at the Sun we
came together as a grieving family, sharing tears and consolation and
mutual support. Never have I felt so clearly the value of a caring
community, one based on principles of spiritual practice. I think we are
all very grateful to have each other. I know I am.
would also like to express my gratitude to so many of you—our readers,
friends, and partners— who have let us know that you too have been
touched by and share in this loss. Many people have asked what the best
way to honor Raymond’s life is. My answer is that we should continue the
work he gave his life to, and possibly for—working gently and without
anger toward a world in which all people feel free and safe to be
exactly who they are. In a society in which that is far from true,
Raymond was Raymond to his last breath. In my tradition, we call that a
* * *
spiritual teacher offers us better counsel about how to live with
difficulty than Pema Chödrön. I want to let you know about a “virtual
retreat” on July 14 that will mark her 76th birthday. Pema Chödrön is
spending almost all of this year in solitary meditation retreat but on
that day, practitioners around the world can join her for a day of
meditation dedicated to the theme of Practicing Peace. Ani Pema has
recorded a special teaching for this occasion, which you can access at
pemachodronfoundation.org. This is a precious opportunity to join this
beloved Buddhist teacher in a day of meditation devoted to peace. From
peace in our hearts to peace in the world, there’s nothing more