Memorial Tributes to Toni

Remo Packer – All right, let’s see how this goes. This is an amazing group. My experience has been on the periphery of Toni. Everything amazing, everything happy, everything sad. All of the experiences. I appreciate all of the stories and experiences from times that I remember when I was a child when she was, prior to the Rochester Zen Center. I suppose at the beginning of that time when there were sittings at the house and people coming over, and this was all very foreign to me, What’s going on? (I wondered at times.) People would go in the basement and sit. They wouldn’t say anything. I was a musician. We were never quiet. We had to make noise which was what we were supposed to do. And, I think that the idea of love is very much associated in my memory with also tolerance. She had such a tolerance. There were so many things. And the experiences, such as Fred said that… there was such a sense of family. And her experience as a child that she brings all of this to all of us without really seeming to have a tremendous judgment, but just bringing this experience very truly and very honestly without much of a need of obvious recognition. And it’s very interesting to me because throughout my entire life I’ve seen how this, this, seriousness or severity of the traditional Zen practice and all the questioning because she would talk about this also at home. Again, I didn’t really understand all of this and for a very good part of my life, as a child, this was actually something that was also taking her away from our family life. And so I had to kind of come to grips with that, and it’s been interesting over the years to read about her and hear what others have said about her and so on, because my experience was that this was my Mom.

You know, she made baloney sandwiches before I went to school, [laughter] and she made yogurt and granola with my father, who would sit in the kitchen. She was an amazing cook and, thankfully she passed that on to me. We made trips to Europe, trips to Connecticut. Just so many memories of people coming to the house, lots of visiting people, and. . . I saw this great picture out in the hallway there, where Roshi Kapleau is in the front seat. It’s priceless. It’s almost like a cartoon. You know, how often would you see that sort of a set-up between these amazing people, just cruising in a car, it looks like they were going out for. . . wherever, you know, for fun. They’re just going out for experience. Years ago, before Roshi died, I ran into him. A very strange occurrence in Denver Colorado, where I lived for a long time. I’m walking around with some friends, this group of six people or whatever, walking down the street. And as I looked closer and I say “It looks a lot like Roshi Kapleau.” And I went over and said hello. And we had a tremendous 20-minute conversation.

All of this really did embody what she was not trying to accomplish. [laughter] She just felt, I think, the need to not to help but just ask questions, and ask questions of others to encourage more questions. And there really is no answer. It’s just questions. And the questions, I feel, at least in my opinion, are the basis of our lives and how we exist, both with ourselves and among others. And I think that’s the greatest gift that I’ve gotten, just to be able to, without really hesitation, just ask questions. I’m not ashamed to ask questions. At this point in my life I negotiate for a living, and so I ask questions. I ask as many questions as I possibly can. There is no really right or wrong answer to any of these questions, its just the questioning process that brings up our own truth, and the truth and the understanding that we can experience with other people, and again, there’s no right or wrong. It’s just, life is, and we can fight it, we can enjoy it, we can be miserable in it. We can do whatever it is we choose to do with this experience, but I think the greatest gift is this idea of questioning and just being open, just being open to the possibilities and being open to whatever that dialogue creates, and that is what I appreciate the most.

And I’ll leave with one little piece. I was going to read more of this but want to save time. This is from her Polish translator, and I don’t know whether I’m saying it correctly, it’s either Jaceck or Jacek, [Jacek Dobrowloski] had been translating for her in Poland since 1975. And he had written this, and I happened to find this on the internet. It’s just an amazingly written piece. But I’ll try and get through this. . . “She would never flinch facing adversity, just dance through all obstacles. She was no imitator, no clone, no actress, charmer or storyteller. She knew that meditation starts where all theater ends.” That so spoke to me. And I appreciate the fact that there are so many here and so many that couldn’t be here and communicated also with me and with people at the Center, and I’m very grateful.