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The Tears I Shed Yesterday Have Become Rain

— quoted from calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh


Today is the 30th anniversary of my father’s death. Today I remember him. Every day for 30 years, I’ve remembered him.

Many years ago, long before I knew anything about Buddhism, I wrote a poem in my journal that started something like this:

Why don’t I go to the cemetery?

Because you are not there.

Today I add this:

I don’t need to go there to remember you.

You’re in my memories, in my thoughts, in my heart, every moment of every day. You’re in my hands—in their shape and length, the size of the knuckles, in my blunt fingertips. You’re in the long dimples in my cheeks when I smile. You’re part of me, written deep into every cell of my body, into the artistic impulse that feeds my soul.

You’re also in every blade of grass, every breath of wind, every birdsong; you’re in every drop of rain, every drop of water in the ocean, every cloud.

And so am I.

And so are we all.

Today, with 10 or so years of Buddhist study and practice behind me, I hear the same words from one of my beloved teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh—known as Thay (“teacher” in Vietnamese) to his students and disciples—who died January 22, 2022, just a few days before I this writing.

I’ve heard these words from him many times before now, but they are doubly poignant today, bringing healing to the many lives he touched, including mine.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Although I know Thay only through his numerous writings and even more numerous recordings and videos, his teachings and his life have touched me deeply and changed me profoundly.

Like many others, I've been humbled by Thay's own humility and grace. He was an intellectual giant, in my opinion, with the rare ability to simplify complex ideas so that even children could understand his answers to their questions. He spoke softly and with great clarity, the kind you only get when someone knows their subject matter deeply and intimately.