Framed by Buddhist prayers and sutras, words of love described the life and impact of Ruth Eppsteiner as the Florida Community of Mindfulness came together to say farewell to her earthly presence in her funeral service Sunday.
Our teacher Fred led the ceremony for his mother, who passed away at home in Naples on February 11 at the age of 102. The service included music and eulogies from family and sangha members.
Fred told the Sangha that the role of a Buddhist funeral is to support the deceased in their continuing journey of transition and to remind us of impermanence, reminding us to be mindful of its impact on our relationships.
Ruth's younger son, Rob, of Naples, remembered her as a mother whose life centered on love of family and who kept family and extended family members near all her life. He described a generous heart that could best be defined as "Give away your love!"
He said all three of her children were born into the Jewish faith but ended up practicing Buddhism, along with Ruth herself becoming Buddhist at age 80, causing Ruth to ask later in life, "What karma do we have?"
Rob Eppsteiner describes Ruth's deep love of family, while Fred's granddaughter, Metta,
"Her great teaching was don't waste time," he said. "Love your family and friends."
Ruth's youngest grandson, George Eppsteiner, spoke on behalf of her numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, recalling memories of her as a loving grandmother who provided warm cookies when he was young and plainspoken lessons in life even in his adult years.
Angie Parrish, speaking on behalf of her time with Ruth as well as for Sangha members who had submitted their comments, recalled the FCM pilgrimage with Fred to India in 2009, which Ruth had joined in spite of warnings from Fred that it was strenuous and that she might die there because of the difficult conditions and her age. Her response was "Sign me up!" Angie said the rest of the group got sick and had to push to keep up with Ruth.
"When we went to Naples, we would sit on the porch of her condo and talk about Dharma," Angie said. "She called Fred her teacher. She loved the Dharma and she loved the Naples Sangha very much."
Fred commented that "at age 102, she had lost everybody, her husband, her friends, yet she never changed. She just began attracting younger people. Her body aged, but her mind never aged."
He said he found notes from a Dharma talk given by Ruth that reflected thoughts that she had not discussed in her talk. One bit of self reflection said she hadn't seen outside her little circle of people she loved but that her practice caused her to begin to open up her love to all beings. Her Dharma talk, in which she talks about developing her practice after coming into Buddhism late in life, can be accessed by Clicking Here.
Ruth's Dharma name was Source of Boundless Love.
As had been requested by Ruth, the Sangha recited the Heart Sutra.
Courtney "CiCi" Claar sings "If I Loved You," a song from the Broadway musical Carousel.
Also requested by Ruth was "If I Loved You," the favorite song of her and her husband of 52 years, Larry, who predeceased her. It was sung by Courtney "CiCi" Claar of the Tampa Sangha.
Diana Fish of the St. Petersburg Sangha played cello for a silent meditation, and a group sang "Five Remembrances."
Singing "The Five Remembrances" from the balcony were, from left, Anne Louise Kracmer of Fort Myers, Charner Reese of Tampa, Molly Conlon of Tampa, Maria Teresa Jaureguizar of Tampa and Christopher Lee Nguyen of Fort Myers. They were accompanied by Rick Ferriss of Tampa on the guitar.
A reception, featuring a video of Ruth's life and loving relationships with family members, followed the service.
Elements of the service are included below:
CONTEMPLATION OF NO-COMING AND NO-GOING:
This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous True Mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.
MINDFULNESS OF THE DECEASED:
Brothers and Sisters, it is time to bring to mind Ruth and to send the energy of loving kindness and compassion to her. Let us sit and enjoy our breathing for a moment, allowing Ruth to be present with us now.
Brothers and Sisters, please listen. The peace and joy of the entire world, including the worlds of the living and the dead, depend upon our own peace and joy in this moment. With all our heart and one-pointed mind, let us begin anew for the benefit of ourselves and our beloved ones.