Shambhala Sun Home Free Gift with Order Current Issue Subscribe & Save Half Give a Gift Renew Current Text
spacer spacer spacer


spacer spacer

Shambhala Sun | July 2012
You'll find this article on page 11 of the magazine.

Suddenly and Without Warning

By MELVIN McLEOD, Editor-in-Chief

There’s 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 Taavel.

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.

Raymond 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 street.

Later 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.

On 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.

I 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 true warrior.

* * *

No 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 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 important.

From the July 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

See also: A Poem — "For Raymond, and for all of the Raymonds, which is to say: for everyone," by Tanya Davis

Subscribe | Current Issue | Search Archives | Contact Us | Spotlight | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Employment
© 2008 Shambhala Sun | Email: | Tel: 902.422.8404 | Published by Shambhala Sun Foundation