During my retreat at the Insight Meditation Society last week, yogis had the opportunity to pay for a meal in honour of a loved one. I chose lunch on Saturday, April 11, the second last day of the retreat. And there it was on the white board at the entrance to the dining room: “Lunch is offered ‘for my wife Jody’.”
When I arrived at IMS, I signed up for the job of bell ringing for each lunch. I would stand near the serving area, gong in hand, beside three lineups of silent yogis. After the cooks had placed all the food on tables, one of them would take a tiny xylophone and hit three notes. She would then nod to me, I would hit the gong with the little wooden baton, and all of us would bow. As retreatants came forward to take a plate, I would set off on a journey through the IMS buildings, ringing the gong loudly so that no one would miss their lunch.
On Saturday, April 11, after pausing several times that morning to see Jody’s name on the board, I lifted up the gong and baton and walked towards the dining room, telling myself not to cry. I stood stationary for three or four minutes while I waited for the cook’s notes. “Don’t cry, Bruce.” Oh my, how silly of me. But I held things together throughout the experience, and replaced the gong on its stand. Then I walked into the coatroom and cried for my darling wife. How I miss my Jodiette.
Later in the afternoon, from 3:00 till 4:00, I went to the optional daily qi gong session (pronounced “chee”) in the meditation hall. I’d say 80 of the 100 yogis came every day. Qi gong is a Chinese movement art, gently uniting us with heaven and earth, and with all of life. Franz, our leader, had opened his soul to us. We were much blessed. This would be our last session, and Franz had a surprise. Halfway through the hour, he mentioned that we would now link together the 18 qi gong movements … to music.
A resonant male baritone voice ripped through me, singing in Hindi, I believe. I didn’t know what the words meant. But my being knew. I started crying for Jody, and I think for all of us. I moved my body and kept crying. Sometimes I would be overwhelmed and stood still, shaking. A few of the movements involved twisting and looking back to the left and then right. “Oh, no. Now the folks behind me will see me crying.” So silly again. For one thing, if I’m looking backwards, so are the people behind me. But more importantly, the human beings I was with honoured each other’s humanity, however it was expressed. They didn’t know I was crying about Jody but they accepted my tears. I kept crying.
It was a good day, Jodiette. You deserved every moment, my dear.