Nothing guarantees a single additional moment of this life.
An old friend from my Providence days, about my age, began experiencing a heart attack but did not know it was a heart attack because the symptoms were not, at first, clearly recognizable as such. The symptoms were flu-like and he assumed it was something like that until a nurse suggested it might be something else. Good suggestion. I'm glad to report Wayne is okay.
One day many years ago, my teacher (Zen Master Soeng Hyang aka Bobbie Rhodes, or "Bascia" as her Polish students call her, a name she admitted she liked) woke up feeling irritable. That's all, just irritable. She went to her job as a hospice nurse and felt "off," literally off-balance, and she was grumbling about it to a co-worker who suggested she get examined. The doctor did an initial examination of her and said, "I think you're having a stroke." And she was. They later found it was probably due to a hole in her heart, no bigger than a quarter, which no one had ever discovered. Surprise.
And today, we got an announcement from the Kwan Um School of Zen that one of our senior teachers -- one of Seung Sahn Sunim's old students -- has a serious medical challenge that crept on him, took him by the shoulder, and said, "Hello there."
About 10 days ago Dae Jin Sunim wasn't feeling well. He went to a hospital to check. They saw something in his blood work and recommended a bone marrow test which was done last Friday. The preliminary results came Saturday. He probably has acute myeloid leukemia (AML), not clear yet what specific type. This is a serious form of leukemia. The specific type (there are at least three) determine the treatment course which in western medicine is chemotherapy. The lab work wont be done until tomorrow, Tuesday when they can say for sure which type he has and what they recommend.
. . . . .
His condition is quite serious but he is feeling much better since he has gotten a couple transfusions of blood. His immune system is compromised and his red blood cell count is very low. Whole thing came out of nowhere just in the last 10 days. We are getting a lot of information on alternative treatments both in Korea and the US and also combinations of alternative and western medicine together. Please chant.
The chronology of the story is a teaching in itself. One day, healthy. Next day, something that could easily be dismissed as flu or something else that is minor. Or you find a little lump, something easy to miss. And sometimes, that's the beginning of a chapter you weren't expecting to be part of your story.
Deming Zen Center will join many zen centers in dedicated special chanting (to Kwan Seum Bosal, also known as Avalokitsvara, the bodhisattva embodying compassion) for Dae Jin Sunim. But it's also for Wayne. And for you and me.
Because that's the thing about time -- we order our lives around it, but it really isn't a thing we can spend well or waste; it isn't anything at all. The time to give ourselves completely to our life is right here, right now.
And that means I need to go read stories to two young boys who are coping with the disappointing news that it is bedtime.