EULOGY FOR MICHAEL ROUDETTE
by Lopön Helen Berliner for the Lotus Garden Office of Practice & Study
Last night, when I should have been writing a eulogy for our dear vajra brother, Michael Roudette, I found myself ironing clothes, neatly folding and laying them out; organizing my texts and carefully wrapping practice materials… And then I realized: This is Michael.
Michael had a passion for the language of form and style. And he dedicated this genius of his—along with his heart, mind, and life—100% to the dharma.
For those who did not know him…(well, in a way, you do know him because Michael lives on in his soulmate, Kuan Chew, and in his colleagues, friends, and students.) But to fill in some blanks…
Michael was born in Manhattan on February 17, 1950, in the year of the metal tiger. And he was, in fact, a very cool cat—in the original African American sense of the word “cool,” which means self-possessed, courageous, and inspired. Yes, that’s where the meaning of cool comes from, and how it came to describe the best of black jazz, improv, and artistic style—all of which Michael so loved.
By day, a senior research librarian for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, Michael’s not-so-secret identity was as a 24/7 Dharma practitioner. He was a devoted student of Trungpa Rinpoche, with whom he took refuge in 1976. Not long after Trungpa Rinpoche’s death in 1987, Michael became one of the earliest and most committed western students of Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche.
Along the way, Michael acquired a reputation for being the kind of practitioner who actually relished sitting every nyinthun. Coming full circle to his last conversation with Lopön Jann Jackson at Lotus Garden, what was Michael excited about? The fact that a dathun was being planned.
When it came to inspiring others to the path of practice, Michael was like a magnifying glass that could turn a little spark into a flame. Even while passing from this life, he not only galvanized the hospital staff to an unusual level of generosity and kindness, but from all accounts, he seems to have inspired them to delve into Buddhist thoughts about death and dying.
One could say that Michael had 3 favorite things: First, he loved recalling the guru—and he loved sharing that love. Many a practitioner recalls his encouragement and support in relating to a teacher. If things seemed dire, he’d say, “Just call Rinpoche.” And a day later your phone would ring: “Did you call her?” When it came to the teacher and the teachings, Michael never dropped the ball. Coming full circle again, during one of his final hospitalizations, Lopön Jann recalls that Michael had only two personal items in his room: his mala and a picture of Khandro Rinpoche.
Second only to recalling the guru, Michael loved to hear that someone was practicing.
And thirdly, because man cannot live on prana alone, Michael had a notoriously favorite meal: a breakfast of orange juice, blueberry buckwheat pancakes, and scrambled eggs.
But in truth, words are inadequate and time too short to do Michael justice—because Michael loved the bigger picture. The bigger, the better. Nothing made him happier than extending out, reaching out, helping out. This, I think, must explain his love of superheroes and outer space.
Michael always took the possible beyond the bounds of the conventional. As some of you know, Star Trek was Michael’s muse and personal mythology. His New York apartment was ringed with a ceiling-level ledge on which lived a impressive collection of superheroes and star Trek action figures: Michael’s symbolic protectors and guides.
Now, ringed with protection and blessings of the lineage, we pray that Michaels’s departure from this life enter him into the space beyond meeting and parting, for the benefit of all sentient beings.
April 14, 2013
I realize that this is belated, but I just found out about Michael Roudette’s death by googling and “searching” for him. I knew Michael in Boulder, Colorado in the mid-late 70’s. He was a wonderful man and touched everyone that met him, including myself…Life to its fullest was sharing a dance floor with Michael…I cherish the memory of his infectious laugh. I wanted to send my condolences to his loved ones…whom, I know are many in the Bhuddist community. I haven’t seen nor heard from Michael in YEARS but I did want to say something. I have some pictures of a much youger Michael, if anyone wants them.
I was saddened to hear that Michael died. We were best of friends in Boulder, Colorado from 1975 to 1977. We worked together at the University of Colorado on the grounds crew and picked up spare work as house painters. We worked side by side for days on end. I love his sense of humor and his comic dramatic way of chiding me when I did something wrong.
I was not part of Naropa in Boulder, but one day I smoked a cigarette on a bench next to Boulder Creek with Trungpa Rinpoche. I knew who he was, but never told him so. I will never forget the relaxed way he breathed in the smoke and the way it bellowed out on each exhale. Like a dragon. I passed a half hour in his company, then he moved on.
I will remember Michael always and am comforted that he is also in the heart of so many others.