My interest in volunteering at Tara Home came from a wish to ‘pay back’ the gift of hospice care my mother received at the end of her life. That’s how it started for me 6 years ago but I had no idea then what I would value now! Sure, I have acquired some wonderful skills toward competence as a caregiver and that is very important to me. The treasure I had not expected is the gift of learning how important it would be to forget about me, the mind that wants “to help”, the mind that knows fear and separation, the mind that wants to ‘live up to who I am supposed to be.” My goal now is to always be at Tara Home with what our training describes as “don’t know mind”. The mind that is willing to rest in the unknown, the mind that doesn’t worry about the “I”. Tara Home is the perfect training ground for developing this ability and fostering its growth. It’s the space where I’ve seen the truth of communication without words, two hearts connecting. Mind you, this doesn’t happen every time but this is another reason why I want to be at Tara Home. I admit it concerns my growth thus making it about “me” but this is a “me” not so separated from the person we care for. It is a rare form of bliss and joy. It’s a work on training the mind off the meditation cushion. It’s a meditation in action. How joyous!!! Compassion in Action! Such opportunities are rare and I am grateful to be able to serve those who die with dignity at Tara Home.
I summarize it this way: Tara Home brings great benefit to those who serve as well as those who are served!!
Mary Reynolds R.N.
When I found myself involved in the formation of Tara Home some years ago (was it 2003?) I looked around at the people I was working with on the Steering Committee and thought how fortunate I was to be working with such dedicated and caring individuals. When we began to take residents into the Tara Home cabin at Land of the Medicine Buddha that feeling multiplied. The core of this volunteer effort for me is being able to contribute to a peaceful passing of our residents. Working along with other volunteers who also hold this intention is an added joy. I am a labor and delivery nurse by profession. I have always had an interest in hospice care, the other end of the spectrum from birth to death. Perhaps it is because of the loss of many of my own family members that I was drawn to this work. Once in this volunteer capacity I discovered the special blessings that accompany caring for someone making the transition out of the body. When a person is prepared and supported there is a special feeling that is very much present in the time of dying just as there is a special feeling when an infant is being born. It has been my privilege to have helped care for many of our residents at Tara Home and I hope that I can continue this work for many years in the future.
Kent Halpern, L.M.F.T.
My inspiration for volunteering at Tara Home was initiated by my time as a student of Lama Yeshe, who taught briefly at UCSC, supported by my professor, Janice Willis. My further interest in the process of death and dying was deepened when I cared for my mother, during her last few months battling colon cancer. I was the caretaker and learned a great deal from her ordeal.
When Sogyal Rinpoche's wonderful book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying came out, I was able to offer my home as a hospice for a friend's husband dying of lung cancer. We had a study group at that time, to be able to offer a more conscious environment for his passing. I also was able to spend time with Christine Longaker, who was a member with me at Rigpa, and a member of the Santa Cruz Hospice organization. Her wisdom was a wonderful gift to me.
Then my path met up with Lennie Kronisch, who was setting up Tara Home at LMB. I interviewed and was lucky enough to be chosen as a volunteer in the early days of the vision. I am able to bring years of working at nursing homes, mental health facilities, a LMFT degree, and twenty-five years of teaching and practicing Shiatsu massage. These skills have allowed me some ability to comfort those wonderful individuals who chose to spend their last days at Tara Home and their families. It is always a joy to serve such beings, at such a sacred time in their lives. I am often struck by how much more I feel I receive than I can ever offer those lovely souls I have encountered at Tara Home. There is also the deeply spiritual and dedicated group of volunteers that it is an honor to work with. I am blessed with this experience and would endeavor to continue to serve those who stop on their journey at this magical cabin in the redwoods. Thank you.