by Roshi KC Ma Sato | Apr 24, 2022
Writing this today I have just returned from spending time with Yoshi, Mimi and Yuri Maezumi, the adult children of Ekyo Maezumi, the wife of Roshi Taizan Maezumi. Ekyo passed away at her lovely apartment last week and I went to Grass Valley, California to support them. I went because they are family. They are family in every sense of the word and in a dharmic way we have perhaps the deepest kind of connection, relationship. They call me their God mother and I’m not sure what that entails, not sure of my purpose really but I am in their life and they are in mine in spread out but meaningful moments. This is one of those moments.
The finality of experiencing the death of a parent, often brings up complex feelings and emotions that have been entangled with the stories and shared history brought about by living together, or even sometimes by not living together. But under the soil of what was planted as family, live the roots, the roots that give us a place to call home from which we spring forth and grow. Sometimes we find ourselves with roots in a weed patch or maybe roots that give support to vegetables or flowers. And sometimes we have roots that belong to the trunk of a sturdy tree. Those are the families we are rooted to and from which we draw our being in the world— and all circumstances are equally vital and rich with potential.
Sometimes when we lose a loved one those roots, those tendrils that keep us grounded can feel loosened like we have been uprooted, quivering in the wind. We feel like we are falling, let go of, left behind.
However, I like to think that when someone we deeply care about dies it doesn’t mean that we lose connection with them. We can think of this transition like creating a new setting in which we meet them, perhaps it’s a new stage. The lights have been turned down, the volume is lessened and the tangible feel of their presence is gone, though they remain with us.
And so what remains of that departed loved one? Perhaps the most rich, complicated, intense and often sweetest part of that person emerges like a parting gift to us. They are there in our stories, in the books we read. We feel them through the instruments in a song. They are present in photographs and in the touch of worn pieces of clothing, a favorite recipe, through the smile of someone else, or when the sun rises on the horizon. They are with us.
And so it is with family. Family that we are blood related to and family that we inherit from the relationships we find, build, participate in, and engage with in meaningful ways. Perhaps families are our greatest koan, too. Challenging, unsolvable and yet right in front of us. We share something intimate with families that bind us to them in unseen ways that sometimes are only revealed upon their death.
In this time of Zen we practice holding hands with and alongside family. As Genki Roshi reminds us, “Family first.” Our realization is not complete without family. As we continue to be thrust into this wonderful daily chaos we pause to reflect on family from which we were seeded and with whom we share the soil and sunshine. Family is part of and not outside of the field of benefaction that we strive to cultivate and where we create opportunities for kinship, love and caring to grow.
Kyrie, Yuri and Yoshi Maezumi are a pleasure to be around easy to share a meal or have conversation with. They are also courageous and full of grace. Standing alongside them in their light we offered their mother, Ekyo, a powerful and loving send off. We were together as family.
Roshi KC Ma Sato
Roshi Ma KC Sato
Roshi Ma Sato, DPT, MBA is a Zen Buddhist teacher and Dharma Successor in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, an ordained full Zen priest, and Doctor of Physical Therapy. She is founder of Muhei-an, No Walls Hermitage based out of St. George Utah. She has joined The Zen Garland Order: An International Community for Zen Practice, Education, Healing, and Service, a cooperative alliance of Zen Teachers founded by Roshi Paul Genki Kahn and Roshi Monika Genmitsu Kahn.
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