Filed in Travel

Beyond the End of the Road

A remembrance of Rick Fields by his nephew.Benjamin Bogin

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© Michele MartinIn the last years of his life I visited Rick several times at the home he shared with his wife, Marcia, in Northern California. Often I would spend a week with them, tagging along to attend Buddhist teachings, eat lunches with friends, go to the hospital for chemo, or take long, slow walks through the redwoods—the day-to-day activities of an American Buddhist writer living with cancer. There was a sense of extraordinary openness in the way that he faced everything, from something as ordinary as eating breakfast to the most complicated aspects of life and death. To some extent I had always seen this openness, this simple but solid presence, in Rick; but in those final years when he was facing death so directly, it seemed to truly blossom.

The silent presence of death also brought a sense of clarity and calm to these visits. There was not really anything to do, beyond enjoying the time together. These visits always seemed long and slow until suddenly, one morning, it would be time for me to go. Each time, on the way to the airport or bus station, the strange thought that this might be the last time I would ever see Rick would sneak into my mind. The thought that whatever farewell I uttered might be my last words to him had a paralyzing effect on me. What could I possibly say to this man? He was my greatest teacher, my closest friend; he had been a source of inspiration for longer than I could remember. Usually, a long embrace pulled me out of this futile search for the right "last words," and there was always the hope, even the prayer, that I would see him again . . .

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