Monday, November 28, 2011

Sickness, death and quilt raffle: Ho-on-ko 2011

The Friday before the Ho-on-ko weekend was emotionally hectic. The morning started out with a phone call from Dr. Haneda’s wife saying that they cancelled their trip to Chicago. On Thursday evening Dr. Haneda told his wife he wasn’t feeling well and then in the early morning hours of Friday he developed a fever. Since Dr. Haneda is a liver transplant recipient, his wife felt it best to wait for a specialist to examine him and not to go to the hospital emergency room (the worst place for someone with a suppressed immune system).

I decided to go ahead with the Saturday seminar because it was a publicly announced event and there was no way to know who would be coming and contact all of them. I felt the seminar should focus on Dr. Haneda, so I put together a handout of his articles from the May 2011 issue of The Dharma Breeze (see, to be prefaced with a viewing of the DVD of the 2009 Maida Center retreat where Dr. Haneda outlines the similarity between Shakyamuni’s and Shinran’s spiritual breakthroughs.

While I was working on that preparation, I received a call from the Chicago funeral home that serves most of the Japanese American community. A family had lost their loved one to sudden illness the day before and because they knew my husband (when he was a youngster in judo and Japanese school) they wanted me to officiate the funeral service. The deceased had attended our temple mainly in his childhood so I really didn’t know him. It was sad to hear of someone dying so young (in mid-60s) and I couldn’t help noticing it was on the date exactly a year from my father’s death.

Later on Friday we heard from Mrs. Haneda who sounded relieved that her husband’s fever had gone down and the specialist doctor had diagnosed him with stomach flu (much less frightening than organ rejection).

On Saturday I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd since I notified all of the study group members of Dr. Haneda’s absence. But 24 people showed up – only one person decided to leave when he was told Dr. Haneda wasn’t coming. He wanted at least to make a donation – normally for Dr. Haneda’s seminar we take up a collection but I had no intention of doing that for our impromptu session. Then I remembered the Quilt Raffle and told him he could donate by buying a ticket.

The crafts group at our temple has been making a quilt every year to be raffled off at the summer festival “Natsu Matsuri.” It’s always a very lovingly made quilt, hand-sewn by the ladies (mostly Japanese speaking) who gather twice a month at the temple. This year when they got a hold of the raffle winner who lived on the West Coast, he said not to trouble ourselves with shipping it to him and donated it back to the temple. The sold raffle ticket-stubs had been tossed out with the Natsu Matsuri trash, so the group began selling raffle tickets again with Ho-on-ko Sunday as the drawing date. Not many had been sold before this month, but Ms. R did a great job of promoting the raffle at the study classes and the seminar. By Sunday over $300 had been made in donations.

At the seminar there was a nice mix of long-time and newer members and one first-time visitor (and several folks from the Midwest Buddhist Temple). There were questions and comments from a wide variety of participants. It gave me a chance to really speak up for Dr. Haneda’s presentation of Jodo Shinshu which varies from what people heard from textbooks and some older-generation Japanese ministers.

The Sunday service felt a little lonely without a guest speaker. It was a special service with the chanting of Shoshin-ge, readings in Japanese and English from the Godensho (biography of Shinran) and all the ceremonial decorations not seen at normal services. The highlight of the day was at lunch when the quilt raffle drawing winner was announced – the young couple that I married this past summer who just moved into an apartment near the temple. The quilt will be one more reminder to them of their connection to the Sangha.

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