I’d like to thank every one of you for coming out today…for standing up one last time for a good and beloved man. For the ways you helped Pop grow into the man, the worker, the father he was…for the changes you wrought in his life…for reflecting his bright and loving nature in a way that caused him to cleave to you…I embrace you, every one.
My brother Wier broke the news about Pop’s passing followed close by a call from Torrence with the details, some of which I’ll share with you now.
Torrence and Pop were heading down to Boone for a visit with Torre and David that Thursday afternoon. They stopped to take a little break at the rest area just the other side of the North Carolina line. He’d seemed a little loose and weary walking back to the car so she helped him back in the passenger seat.
Buckled up and ready to go she hits that highway on-ramp and gives it the gas. 10…20…30… The world is a neon green Southern springtime…70 degrees and sunny. 40…50…60…
Now if you’ve driven with Torrence you know that speedometer kept on creeping up. 70…80…probably a healthy 85 before she backed off the accelerator. In my mind in this moment I like to envision Pop just kept on accelerating, achieved escape velocity, and sizzled out into the universe at 186,000 miles a second.
What struck me…what made the difference were Torrence’s description of that moment. Herself still spinning in the fresh, confounding vortex of loss she called and described Pop’s face as looking “so young…like he did when we first started dating.” She went on to describe the transcendent look of peace on his face, as if relieved of all of his burdens and doubts and fears. His final moments on this Earth –his deliverance from all uncertainty and suffering– you have to know were the second-to-last gift his maker ever gave him.
Now if you could go back in time and ask Pop at 40 years of age how he’d like to go I bet he’d have painted a scene not entirely dissimilar from the late afternoon of April 12th. Flying down the highway through a familiar, beloved world fairly quivering with renewal; with his lady-love at his side; with his final breath one of sweet Southern springtime air…if you knew him you’d know Hollywood couldn’t have engineered a more fitting finale.
We were down at the river house yesterday for a little lunch and some family time. I had hoped to find some time during my visit to bide a while in his domain…to meditate a while in quiet communion and seek out his spirit. My friends, to my shock and pleasure no such measures were required. Today you can not walk into their home without feeling the enduring glow of his loving presence…the quiet contentment of a watchful soul whose charges –Torrence and the living Rappahannock itself– are safely embraced by the courses in which they flow. I tried to feel bad for myself that I could no longer hold him but it became quickly apparent it is he who now holds all of us.
It is for that reason I now ask you all to set aside your sadness and fill your hearts with joy. Pop is not gone. He has simply transformed from light to light, and all that remains is for each of us is to shine.
“To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”
-Michel de Montaigne; Complete Essays, Chapter XIX
“Followers of the Way, the Dharma of the Buddhas calls for no special undertakings. Just act ordinary, without trying to do anything particular. Move your bowels, piss, get dressed, eat your rice, and if you get tired, then lie down. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean.”
– Linji Yixuan, 9th c. China
A Buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. Such is his power that karma can’t hold him. No matter what kind of karma, a Buddha transforms it. Heaven and hell are nothing to him. But the awareness of a mortal is dim compared to that of a Buddha, who penetrates everything, inside and out. – Bodhidharma
I could see flakes by the earliest dawn light, resolving into the scenes revealed here by mid-day.
The snow is wet and heavy: with fat flakes feathery from the aching cold aloft.
“I feel sorry that I cannot help you very much. But the way to study true Zen is not verbal. Just open yourself and give up everything. Whatever happens, whether you think it is good or bad, study closely and see what you find out. This is the fundamental attitude. Sometimes you will do things without much reason, like a child who draws pictures whether they are good or bad. If that is difficult for you, you are not actually ready to practice zazen.”
— Shunryu Suzuki, Not Always So
A classic cover, and one of which I’ve been aware since it’s 1991 release. Eek A Mouse’s unique verbal stylings, which he calls ‘Chin-Indian Music,’ is the perfect vehicle for Robert Plant’s staccato, mumbling delivery in the 1973 original.
You’ll have to forgive the ‘elevator reggae’ backing track. As ever, Eek is the star of his own show.
…and a bonus reggae cover of this same song, this time by the legendary Sly & Robbie: