Dearest Noble Sangha,
It is with great sadness that I am writing to let you all know our Dharma sister and friend, Chime Heller, passed away yesterday evening, Thursday May 5th, at 9:10 pm. She was surrounded by friends who have been practicing with her and caring for her since her hospital admission a few weeks ago. Chime faced her illness with acceptance, courage and dignity. Her transition was rapid and peaceful.
Many thanks to all of you who sent your compassion, good wishes and performed practices for Chime. It was of great benefit to her to know she was loved and cared for by so many in our community and helped to ease her transition.
Chime, before meeting Trungpa Rinpoche, had been a student of Swami Satchyananda, the Hindu guru who had also been the teacher of Thomas Rich, aka “Narayana”, his Hindu name, aka Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin, as well as Ken Green. I knew Chime most closely when we were both part of the staff/sangha at the Snow Lion Inn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The era of the Snow Lion Inn, though brief, was seminal in the development of the sangha of the Vidyadhara and Vajradhatu. The hotel had been built and owned by Bill and Emily Hunter. After having sold it it, the Hunters were confronted with a buyer who failed on his bank loan with which he bought the hotel. The bank approached Bill and Emily and asked whether they would like to take the operation of the hotel over again, in an attempt to recoup their and the bank’s losses. The Hunters approached Trungpa Rinpoche, having moved to Boulder and become his students, and asked his advice. Rinpoche suggested the hotel could be operated as a business by sangha in the tourist season, and for intensive practice seminars in the off season. This was the birth of all the Vajradhatu Seminaries. And prior to the first seminary, the seminar “Crazy Wisdom”, one of two seminars included in the book of the same title, was held at the Snow Lion, during -40 degree blizzard weather.
But back at the beginning of the adventure, Bill and Emily then selected a core group of sangha friends, added to by suggestions by the Vidyadhara, to invite to operate the hotel. This group, in addition to the Hunters, included Chime, myself, Alan Spragens, Dale (later-Spragens), Mark and Lahta Barasch, Michael and Barbara McClellan, Michael and Carol Root, Ken and Helen Green, and more, about 15 in all. It was an incredibly precious time, as in breaks between intense hotel business, the Vidyadhara spent intimate time with us. This was circa 1972-73. The group running the hotel were a sangha unto ourselves, traveling through many intense circumstances as we pursued the Vidyadhara’s vision for the venture. Though a mere year, it felt like lifetimes, and it resulted in the first seminary in Jackson Hole, 1973. My most vivid memories of Chime are from this time, and even though time and circumstance scattered the Snow Lion sangha, the bond of those times remains indelibly inscribed in our hearts and lives, and in the sacred history of the Vidyadhara and the Dharma in the West.
Of countless stories and anecdotes from the Snow Lion era, here is one involving Chime. A refugee from a Cairo, Illinois ghetto street life, named Randy, arrived at our hotel doorstep looking for work, having hitchhiked out west with no resources and no contacts. We took him on in the kitchen, provided him with a room, and marveled at the pure ghetto idiom which spewed from his mouth in incessant commentary on his new, utterly unfamiliar surroundings and his lurid stories of ghetto life. Randy fixated on Chime, and voiced his passion repeatedly as “I’m gonna get me some of that Chime muffin!” Chime, though as I recall somewhat intrigued and humored by the situation, did her best to discourage and dodge Randy’s rather brazen advances, but Randy kept coming on, and the aggression of his advances were becoming worrisome. Finally, Ruth Astor arrived for a visit, and she took a liking to Randy! Randy met his match as Ruth closed in on him in increasingly tightening circles, with her intense dark stares of targeted seduction. Randy ran scared, having gotten a large dose of his own medicine. Soon thereafter, he hit the road again.
Walking into Hospice
Having read on the internet of your imminent passing
Already gone they said, the night before.
After so much time not having met you
The last in Safeway maybe four years back
Missed you again yet
You were vividly present in your sudden absence.
Ride death as you did life Chime
And discover in death
the meaning of deathless.
These arose Thursday, before and after Chime died. We were both spring babies, gardeners, so i felt this acutely in this present spring time. I’m so glad to know her dying was peaceful. -Beverly Armstrong
For Chime, Thursday Afternoon
Another sweet light flickering, cruel
to be dying in spring for someone
like you. Are you beyond your favorite
leaf tips swelling up Will you soon
send your own new shoots into
another country where richness
and compost will meet to nurture
your strong heart core Too soon
to miss you, time now to keep you
company in your personal charnel
ground. Together we practice this way.
Chime, Thursday Night
What is it we lose
when someone we love
dies A future imaginary time
We sit watching your fish
weave and interdance
in a small pond. This is
what we meant to do,
more this summer.
you brought me that i drew;
where is that picture We thought
nothing special, but it only
happened once–those very particular
tulips, their stripes, brights,
frills, the way they fell
open in a vase; our ordinary everyday
delights meeting in vast space. Profusions
of plants, greed we both felt
to put clutters of seeds
in their pockets, watch them
funnel up, fountain spray.
It makes us laugh. We swim
in garden’s birth and death soup.
Thank you for your happiness,
loneliness, and luminosity. You knew i knew
how you felt, falling, broken
bones, life-and-death mindfulness.
Have been so happy you could still
walk. A brave green breaking
up and out. Is Rinpoche holding
your hand now is he wearing robes
or flowered shirt
Go, Chime, go–it’s green light then white all the way.