By Lynele Jones
David Harding’s cremation was an extraordinary event. The Crestone End of Life Project has built an outdoor crematorium enclosed by a fence. On the cloudy Tuesday morning (July 7, 2015), David’s thin body had been brought outside the enclosure wrapped in a large curtain on a wooden stetcher. A tuft of his red hair and his toes showed at the ends. Two of David’s eight children, Anatta and Beau, and his nephew Tashi were among the six pall-bearers. About sixty people (at least a third of them old students of Trungpa Rinpoche), and half a dozen dogs followed. The body was placed on the iron grates. We offered juniper branches and some of David’s favorite tobacco, and firewood was piled under and over the body.
We did some tonglen practice and began the Sukhavati liturgy. As we did the mantra, four people with torches lit the firewood from all four directions. The blaze was strong and huge and loud as we continued the “NAMO AMITABHAYA HRIH” mantra for a long time. We took turns drinking from a magnum of sake and offering it to the blaze.
When the liturgy ended, many of us expressed our appreciation for David and for those who cared for him in his last year, and we shared some remembrances and tears and laughter, and Anatta sang beautifully one of his favorite songs “The Rose”. I was particularly touched by the affection and admiration expressed by a number of wizend, scruffy-haired men who had been David’s friends and caregivers in the last years. David refused medical attention or prescription drugs through the very end of the run of his melanoma. He kept his mental clarity, and he continued to read and relish dharma conversations with his few visitors. Because his face was a mess of open sores, he did not want his family to come to see him, but he took phone calls. The exception was that Beau came down in the early spring to set up arrangements for his end of life and bring some furnishings for David’s truck. For his last three months, David lived and died in the back of his pickup truck parked in his friend Willie the Welder’s yard, with a vast view across the San Luis Valley and a breeze blowing through his windows and a horse grazing in the pasture. His friends would bring him a ganga milkshake for breakfast, and he would take puffs of tobacco throughout the day, sometimes with sips of sake or marijuana paste. He read dharma books about death and made admirable peace with his pain and his departure. His friend said at the cremation “David has GRADUATED!”
He had wanted us all to have a good time at his final party – he did a good job of it, and it continued at a potluck at Mark Elliott’s house afterwards. Thank you, David.
When I arrived in Boulder during the summer of 1975 David was one of the first people I met. He was such a ‘foot loose and fancy free’ character always showing up anywhere, anytime and when he left it was always an enigma as to where he disappeared to. During the mid 70’s it was to a teepee somewhere in the mountains! He was ‘no one’ to be anywhere any longer than what he deemed appropriate for the situation. His unique behavior caught my attention and it became apparent there was more going on with him than most would have given him credit for. At a distance I watched and learned a lot from him.
Although he imbibed a considerable amount of fire water I never saw him ever intentionally hurt or speak badly about anyone. He was a stellar example of someone who never indulged in ‘one-ups-mans-ship’ and had no interest in becoming anything more than what he naturally was.
I remember his great kindness.
He was our Rare and Wild Repa Yogi Brother.
I think of him on his journey I know he is naturally fine.
It’s me that’s having a tough time with this one.
He thought he’d died and gone to heaven when the Iron Butterfly made it all the way to the door of 1111 Pearl Street and to the feet of the master claiming to know the path to liberation. Clasping his tattered copy of Meditation in Action, he bounded up the stairs by three’s, running smack into the lovely Suzanne Furman who offered to pay his way into The Nine Yanas Seminar, which was just beginning. I will never forget my little brother making his way into the brilliance of the shrine room and taking his seat.
A month before his death, The Red Man sent me, Lazy Sistra, Dzogchen Ponlop’s Mind Beyond Death, with a follow-up telephone voice message that I damn-well better read it! Unwrapping the grocery bag cover, my hands began to tremble. I couldn’t remember my little brother ever sending me anything. Oh God, I murmured, reading the title. The hardback seemed to open quite naturally to page 4, and my eyes fell to the third paragraph, which read, “Dreading death, we do not see the obvious; that which has the power to renew itself is eternal, while that which is truly continuous has no creative power.”
In memory of my best friend whose flight to liberation was his first love.
Love you, bro