In Memoriam: Mary Lenker

By Bob Schaibly We gather on the occasion of death to honor the spirit of life. We gather to honor the work Mary Lenker did and the love she showed us. We do not know one another in totality. Mary kept her depression from most of us. She coped with it all her life. It led her to previous suicide attempts. Those of us who knew how Mary struggled, encouraged her and were present for her. But, she had a particularly virulent form of depression that came on quickly. It wasn't Mary talking when depression seized her mind and heart. There was no reasoning with her then. She said things she did not say and did not believe when she was herself. She loved her family and her friends. Her love for life motivated her to fight the depression courageously all her life.

Mary lived life well when she practiced the meditation that brought her serenity. She studied Zen for many years at the Southwest Zen Academy. She practiced with the Houston Zen Community in First Church. An important Zen teaching is that each person persists even after the body is gone. Barbara Holleroth writes, "It is sometimes said that we are born as strangers into the world and that we leave when we die. But in all probability we do not come into the world at all. Rather we come out of it, in the same way a leaf comes out of a tree or a baby from its mother's body. We emerge from deep within its range of possibilities, and when we die, we do not so much stop living as our living takes a different form. So the leaf does not fallout of the world when it leaves the tree. It has a different way and place to be within it."

Every life has many different meanings. Because each one of us has a different perception of Mary, her life will hold a different meaning for each of us. I remember her overall as a person thrilled to be finding her own fulfillment. She smiled and was excited and strong and happy.

Mary was a Registered Nurse. Connecting with the AIDS Care Team was a very good meeting of her skills and attributes. She loved visiting clients in the Care Team's program, and became very knowledgeable about AIDS medications and complications.

Let us remember that even when things are beyond our human understanding, love is greater than sorrow and endures through pain and grief. That love can bind all hearts in companionship and bring courage. So, we say farewell, dear friend. We loved you living and we love you now. Rest now in peace and in the love we bear you. Amen.

Dharma teacher Bob Schaibly, True Deliverance, is the minister of First Unitarian Church in Houston, Texas.

PDF of this article