Wonderful Memories of My Sweet Sister Connie
I loved her gentle spirit
I loved her giving nature
I loved her beautiful hands
I loved the way she found beauty in everything
I loved to watch her paint
I loved that she loved animals
I loved to see her with her sweet Moochie
I loved to listen to her sing
I loved to sing harmonies with her
I loved how her cooking was an art form
I loved how she was a lot like my mom
I loved how she loved Milk Lake and the beauty surrounding it
I loved that she followed her heart
I loved how we had a special connection even though we lived so far apart
I loved that she found her warrior spirit just in time
I will miss my sweet sister very much, but I know she is on a new path that will be even more amazing than this one.
I am thankful she called me when she did, and allowed me to help her in her final journey on earth. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to see her one last time and say all the things I wanted to tell her.
For all of you who helped her on her final journey, I send a special Thank You. It meant so much to me that she had all the care she needed, and did not have to worry about anything. She had so many generous and loving spirits with her. I know she was so grateful.
With a lifetime of love,
Some thoughts and a poem for Connie
November 4, 2010
I had met Connie and Gregg sometime in early 2005. I was an awkward teenager then, but had made an unshakable connection with the Dharma and had decided to take refuge in Mahone Bay. While attending a pre-refuge program, I stayed with the clause’s who pampered and nurtured me in a grand-parently way. Over the years I had two more such encounters with them. They were small encounters, but I felt like they left a good imprint. Once, when I was having some family trouble, I called Connie in a fit of depression. She was instantly available, cheerful and helpful. Even after I felt better, she wouldn’t hang up. From what I’ve heard about Connie, this is the way she often manifested, like some kind of nurturing goddess.
Coming to live at Milklake was a choice I made because I felt I could repay some of the kindness to the clause’s and the lineage.
It was a difficult journey for me to be a part of, and I feel silly saying this because it was probably least of all for me. Coming into the situation I lacked the confidence to always be there for myself, and so I felt that at times it was emotionally difficult to be there for Connie. Yet she was still nurturing, full of teachings, and often a whirlwind of activity as she lay in bed with her phone and her stick; the instruments with which she powerfully conducted the world around her for the last few months. I would often think “She accomplishes more in one day that I ordinarily do in a week!”
Connie is the only person I’ve ever known to die, I’ve ever seen die. Despite her circumstances, she handled her body speech and mind magnificently. She was always thinking about what she could do for the people who came to visit her, even as she was mostly bedridden. I was a part of the sorrow, the joy and of all the richness that she magnetized to Milklake in the form of people and things. I am grateful. The way that she lived and died in the short time that I knew her will probably be etched into my mind for as long as my life lasts, as well as the fact that life doesn’t last, it ends without warning and this body precious.
Below is a poem which she altered to be read at her Sukavati.
I think over again my small adventures,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach;
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.
Victory to the Great Eastern Sun.
Anonymous (Inuit, 19th century)
November 4, 2010
I am saddened and stunned to learn of the passing of Connie. I first met Connie and Gregg when they became caretakers at Milk Lake and enjoyed relating with them frequently when I had the luxury of doing retreats there. I always felt a profound sense of being cared for. Connie and I especially enjoyed sharing our interest in dharma, art, and FOOD, but not necessarily in that order. I will miss Connie’s cheerful definitiveness and unflinching devotion. My heart goes out to Gregg, who is one of the most kind and thoughtful persons I’ve had the joy of knowing.
October 31, 2010
I first met Connie in late 1993 or early 1994, I am not sure. She and Gregg lived just down the road from Gampo Abbey at the time, Gregg acting as caretaker for the Abbey back then. “Down the road” in this case has a double meaning, because that road, as far as I remember, really goes down quite steeply from the Abbey to that house. I and someone else (I can’t remember who, but it might have been Sasha Meyerowitz) were invited to dinner at the Clauses’. The place felt very homely and very strange to me (not being from that part of the world) at the same time. I remember feeling quite drawn towards Connie. She was gentle and strong. At some point Gregg said something about going back up to the Abbey, and she replied very firmly: “NOBODY is going up that road tonight!” It was very cold and there was a lot of ice on the road. Gregg complained to her about not being gentle. She immediately apologized and said the obvious thing: she was just worried about us. I don’t know if it was the same night or another occasion, but I clearly remember her telling the story about once actually SEEING a small Mahakala sitting on her shrine. I am not into things like that too much, but there was no room to doubt it. It sounded totally credible and matter-of-fact. Unfortunately, we lost contact over the last few years. I did not even know she had cancer until today, when I learned from this site that she has died. I think our last conversation on the phone was awkward. She used to call me once in a while in the context of fundraising efforts for the Milk Lake Center. And I was not in a position to donate anything, and also there was something else happening that stole my attention, so the phone call was somehow interrupted without a proper goodbye, and I never called back. Neither did she. I wish we had said a proper goodbye — too late now. But I will remember Connie as a great, strong and gentle person with a big, big heart. Farewell. Norbert, Austria
108 Syllables for Secret Meadow
October 30, 2010
Who cares which cup our coffee is in,
or which method is used to brew it,
or which dish or bowl or spoon
The hostess of beings is now the guest.
Whatever is served is a perfect feast,
fit for royalty–
You possess heroic grace.
Your etiquette tickles us.
You set loose ripples of goodness
like a Turner masterpiece.
Why not rest in TGS
Rinpoche is snapping his fingers
Come back! Come back! Come back!
All of us love Connie-la!
Moon Dharma Joy
Dear Noble Shambhala Sangha,
October 29, 2010
I would like to share with you all Connie’s last farewell. At the sukavati ceremony in Halifax some dear friends of Connie asked if they could be present at the cremation. We were able to put off the cremation until 2pm the following day. A group of seven friends went out to the crematorium which is in a lovely landscaped wooded area just outside of Bridgewater. The director of the crematorium, a very gentle man, brought us into the main room where we gathered around Connie to do the Prajnaparamitra chants. Armand De Grenier performed the sage smoke lhasang in the open casket as well as in the fire box. It was a very moving ceremony.
I found out from the funeral home that one can bring a body directly from a sukavati ceremony to the crematorium. The central room in the crematorium was a good space and had room for some fifty people. The woods surrounding the main building felt very good for a farewell gathering. It felt like a proper ending.
I would be glad to share this whole process with those of you who will be going through this dying process with one of your friends or family. Whether one works with the traditional eastern medicine approach or the western palative medicine approach it is still a very difficult journey.
It seems timely to form some kind of resource group who can be available to those who are dying or have a friend or family member who is dying. I would be grateful to have any feedback on this matter.
With a mountain of appreciation to our Shambhala community.
Milklake Shambhala Retreat Centre
Dear friends of Milklake,
An ocean of tears a mountain of joy.
Such warmth in vast space at Halifax Shambhala Centre.
Your stories and songs broke my heart like Connie broke
my heart each day during the last 4 months of her life.
I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart to
to our dear Shambhala community for their generosity.
October 28, 2010
This past week we have lost three powerful women protector-dakinis to space:
Magnificent, regal, grand-madonna Beverly
Wild, insightful, monastic magpie, Polish chatchka queen, Palmo
Ratna retreat lady of food, furniture, and furnishings, gentle elegant artist, Connie
Thinking of them:
Let’s celebrate these three great women of Cape Breton Shambhala,
Dancing and laughing in space,
The circle of dakinis.
Offering great feasts and torma,
And, abandoning attachment,
May you roam in the wilderness of the expanse,
Guided by the Ocean of Dharma,
May you benefit many beings.
~ Da-o Chopel 10/24/10
October 21, 2010
It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that our dear friend and vajra sister, Connie Clause, died early this morning at Milklake Retreat Centre in Nova Scotia. Connie had been working with breast cancer for the last three and a half years.
Connie was an accomplished watercolour artist, and shared her knowledge and creativity with many. She spent much of her life helping others on the path of dharma as a Kasung, at Gampo Abbey, and for the last eleven years as retreat master at Milklake with her husband Gregg. We will all miss her generosity and humour, and the love and support she gave so freely to all who crossed her path.
Please keep her and Gregg in your hearts and practice. A sukhavati will be held at the Halifax Shambhala Centre Sunday (details to follow in a separate email).
A Snippet of Connie’s Inspiration
October 28, 2010
The author/illustrator Tasha Tudor—who lived independently and without electricity in rural VT, until her death at 92 yrs—was, for Connie, a source of great inspiration. Connie once shared this brief Tasha Tudor quote, evocative of them both:
I have no advice for anyone….
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy!
That’s my philosophy.
Wouldn’t you agree
~Tasha Tudor, age 92
Did you ever taste Connie’s peach jam?
October 28, 2010
Now that was peach jam. I first met Connie when we were sister housekeepers at the Kalapa Court, the Dorje Dradul’s residence in Boulder. Connie’s gentle freshness and flair for beauty helped to maintain the wholesome space in which a multiplicity of the Dorje Dradul’s activities unfolded. Later when we both lived in Nova ScotiaConnie at the Abbey and Milk Lake and I in Yarmouth–we used to visit frequently, by phone mainly, and laugh and share how fortunate we were to man our little outposts. I will miss her cheerful phone calls. –Nancy Castlebury