Sometimes I really am afraid -- not just humble-pie, toe-in-the-sand afraid -- that I won't remember why anyone might want to practice zazen, the seated meditation that is a focal point in Zen Buddhism. The meanings and importance and particulars are all around, but it's like looking at a lily -- it's beautiful ... what else is there to say?
And then along comes someone like Pat, with whom I spent an hour or more this afternoon going over what it was she might like me to say or do at the memorial gathering for her brother Francis (Fran) who died June 3. Pat and I met at an obscenely immaculate funeral home and were attended by the owner of the home -- a man groomed as tight and clean as his carpets.
Fran had been into Zen Buddhism and Pat wanted someone to say something in line with what Fran cared about. Fran had been a student for 20 or 30 years. And Pat asked me about what Fran did at the Zen center where he lived.
As soon as Pat asked, it didn't seem so complicated. But the nature of Friday's gathering -- mostly members of the large Polish-American, Catholic family Fran haled from -- were likely, if Pat was any yardstick, to be nice people who loved Fran to varying degrees and would remember him in their own ways ... all of them good. In my mind, although I didn't know that family, I imagined they wouldn't give much of a shit about Zen or Buddhism ... what they would care about was Fran and the fact that he was dead.
Anyway, Pat and I had a nice conversation and we agreed that whatever I would say might run about 15 minutes -- a time frame in which I might get one foot in my mouth, but would probably have difficulty inserting both feet. I will do what I can to suggest the family find comfort in family and friends ... and perhaps (without too much emphasis) investigate some of the silence that crashes like thunder after someone dies.
So ... I'll do a little chanting, light a little incense, talk a little ... and keep an eye on the clock.