Life is like a dream it is said and there is truth in it. Our lives were running smoothly until the covet-19 virus came from China last year in March. Western Australia was in lock down for six weeks. It was sad to halt the teachings for such a long time. In order to keep our folks tuned to the Dharma, I wrote an article every week except the last one. It was an attempt to keep our people abreast of the Dharma and some were indeed reading them as I had hoped. The writings were not exciting since it was a continuation of the teachings we were going through before the lock down. It was about death and bardo (intermediate stage).
The late Sue Townsend suggested to continue the teachings on zoom. I did check with a friend if that was feasible and it was but it had only 45 minutes free transmission and that was not enough for us. So, I gave up with it and began writing articles instead.
After the lock down ended, we continued the teachings again. On Monday June 29th, one week after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the late Sue texted me that she had pancreatic cancer and had taken her first chemo on the previous Monday!
it was devastating news for all of our little group and I could hardly believe it! It was more distressing that it couldn’t be operated upon! She was not telling any one except her close family and few friends. She didn’t want to deal with other people’s emotions and said, “just need sometime to process privately and take care of my girls, and grandchildren, while they adjust too. I am part of a human trial with different chemo, being used for pancreatic, which has had some good results”. This was on 29th of June. It was an irony that the day Sue was diagnosed, her younger daughter Teddy had given birth in the same hospital: “My daughter, Teddy had her gorgeous little baby girl, Goldie, on the same day I got diagnosis and unbelievably we were only one floor apart for the whole week I was in hospital”. She continued her chemo even though it was “debilitating” and made her “sick” at times. She was determined despite the difficulties. On August 2nd she wrote, “all my blood tests about reducing the tumour size were very good in last week’s review. I have had some temperature last few days so I am on antibiotics intravenously in hospital for a few days”. On 24th of September, I had the best news I could ever hope for. “Got great news today from Dr Dean, who came in the first thing. I’d been so nervous because had my second cat scan yesterday. The tumour in the pancreas has reduced in size 80% since the first scan. Many lesions in liver have disappeared or hardly can be seen. He also confirmed he has got approval to add a new ( very promising) trial drug called CEND to add to existing chemo. So good news today”. I was thrilled to hear this wonderful news and felt there was no need to worry about her condition. I stopped being anxious about her health in the belief she will come good slowly. I never allowed myself to think that something might happen to her. With the latest news and the prospect of a new drug, I convinced myself that she will come back to her normal health.
We discussed politics and sent clips of political news. On 21st November, she told me she had few bad weeks when the doctor changed her chemo but not bad “this past week”.
In WA, things were clear and we never had to wear a mask. The year was stressful for everybody because of the virus and I was myself suffocating because I was unable to go anywhere. I felt the need to get out to refresh myself and get some fresh air in a new environment. So, I decided to go to Queensland on Monday 14th of December. I asked Sue if we could meet before I left. We fixed that Friday afternoon but didn’t happen because she had a nurse coming on that day. Then we fixed on Sunday but unfortunately she was not feeling well that day so we couldn’t see each other. I left for Queensland on that Monday. The last time we met was on 22nd of October when we took a photo together on her behest.
Sue was one of my most dear friend and student. She has stood by me through thick and thin. She invited me to live in her house before I moved to Pixies. She looked after my Buddha for seven long years while I lived in Switzerland. She kept all my other belongs in a safe keeping and paid for it which came to one thousand dollars. She always took me for HH The Dalai Lama’s teaching whenever he visited Australia. She paid for everything, from hotel, airfare and daily meals. I always had her back. She was an irreplaceable friend. She was always generous and kind. When I had gall bladder operation in Perth, she was there for me before I went on the operation table and was there when it was over. Once, I was hospitalised in Switzerland. I told her my situation and her reaction was “you poor thing. I will come to look after you. Do the treatment and I will pay for it”!!! Fortunately, it wasn’t anything serious and I was out of hospital within a week. That’s how caring Sue was for me. When I was planning to return to Australia from Switzerland for good in 2011, she wrote me an email on 31st of August in which she wrote: “I am not sure where you are right now, and whether will get this email, but I just wanted to say that if you/we don’t have the cash available for your airfares this year, I am more than happy to pay for it. I haven’t talked to anyone from our group lately, so don’t know whether this has been discussed yet”. This is how caring Sue was. So, I have lost a beloved friend and a very loyal student.
During her treatment she was doing meditation on Avaloketesvara (Tib:chenrezig) and felt connection to HH The Dalai Lama who was her icon and Guru. She adored The Dalai Lama and never missed his teachings, whether it’s in the presence of the Dalai Lama in Australia or online broadcasts. She also introduced HH The Dalai Lama to 2000 business men and women in 2015 here in Perth. She bravely talked about Tibet on that Occassion which was organised by her. When I came to know of her ill health, I rang the Representative of His Holiness in Canberra, Mr Lhakpa Tsokhog and asked him to inform HH of Sue’s indisposition. HH kindly sent message back advising her to recite Tara mantra and that he would pray for her. That made her really happy.
She felt strongly for Tibet and joined me in our many protests at the Chinese consulate or at Wesley church grounds in Perth city. Tibet lost a good friend too. Owing to her devotion to HH The Dalai Lama, she had experiences that connected her to HH. She wrote: “I felt very closely connected in my mind recently with HHDL. A few times when I was meditating, or in need of support. it was like I felt my mind connecting to this strong energy which I knew came from HH. It felt different-it felt like the connection I’ve felt to HH in this lifetime, would continue in future lifetimes. Like a reassurance and also gaining knowledge that death, whenever it comes, should not be feared. That I should not attach to storyline of life, but know that Buddha nature is already present in me, eternal, formless and joyful”.
She was a wonderful being who was loving, affectionate and compassionate to everybody. She was always there to help with a smile and a giggle. As she felt in her meditation she will meet the Dharma and a teacher in HH The Dalai Lama. We will all miss her and I will miss her even more because she was so kind to me in all these years.
written in loving memory of the ever kind and beautiful Sue Townsend by Geshe la.