Tributes to Jim

Dear Jim, We were contemporaries, close to the same age, survivors of the Vietnam era, and coordinators of our respective Sanghas, so you will probably appreciate the line from the James Taylor song that has been running through my head: "Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone." I opened The Mindfulness Bell to the second page and saw your sweet face. I said to myself, "There's my friend, Jim." As I began to read the caption, I had already assumed your picture was there because you had accepted a position at Plum Village; your devotion to the practice and the fact that you were fluent in Vietnamese made it seem logical. Then the waves of feelings when I read of your death—sorrow for me and your family; joy that you had time to say good-bye to your dear wife and that you moved on in the state of awareness that I know you had achieved.

We were brought together for only one week out of our lives but I feel I was able to develop an appreciation for the person you were. I will always remember how sweet you were to me. As coleaders of a small group at Thich Nhat Hanh's retreat in California last September, I was in awe of your accomplishments and your level of practice. Yet you treated me as an equal because I happened to be comfortable with leading group discussion.

It's funny what we remember. I was so proud that your current profession was a bus driver. Though I own a car and am a product of the American car culture, I frequently take the bus. Thay reminds us in the Fourth Precept how powerful our words can be: "Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering." I have seen this to be especially true when it comes to bus drivers. A happy hello versus snarling because a passenger is confused about the fare or the route can set the tone for someone's whole day. When I would get on the bus in the morning, I would periodically picture you bestowing compassion on some confused rider. It just made me feel better to know you were out there.

I'll never be able to be in a small group at a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh again without thinking about you. And as the song continues, "I always thought that I'd see you, one more time again."

Ah, Impermanence! —Rosemary Donnell

I met Jim in the summer of 1994 at Plum Village for the Fragrant Mountain Ordination. As roommates in the dark room above the library in the Lower Hamlet, Jim indeed lived up to his Dharma name, "True Great Illumination." The light of his smile and gentle spirit touched my life as we prepared to take the Fourteen Precepts. As I return to Plum Village this fall, the spirit of Jim will illuminate many precious moments for myself and others who were fortunate enough to be warmed by his spirit and light. —Jerry Braza

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On the day of Jim's memorial service, the comfortable warmth of the day pressed on every side—a harbinger of the summer heat to come. Spring flowers rose from the earth, reaching for the sun and the blue sky. A Buddhist bell was invited to sound its clear message. Nearby, the river flowed deeply and slowly—meandering in that vast transitional expanse between the foothills and the sea. Songbirds, mostly hidden in trees, added their voices and music as if to celebrate their lives, the lives of the people gathering in this idyllic spot, and that of our friend, Jim Fauss.

While this peaceful scene was unfolding, two seemingly incongruous things were occurring at the same time. Every few minutes, a loud, shrill animal noise pierced the almost still surroundings, perhaps in celebration of life. At the same time, snow-like wisps of white material were gently flying through the warm air. Some were searching for a place to land, others were content to drift aimlessly on. I had forgotten about Cottonwood trees and their ability to generate these wintry signs in May—a subtle reminder, that the winter of our lives is not far removed from the spring.

Many beautiful and loving words were said about Jim that afternoon. Family and friends remembered, and tears were softly shed. I had not known Jim very well before this day, but at its conclusion I felt a genuine kinship to this spiritual being. I particularly liked what Maxine had to say about him. She considered their friendship cemented by a mutual love of intense valley heat. Six days later, at the Vietnam veterans' workshop, she looked up into the heavens and said that Jim must be up there directing the weather to provide this beautiful, soon-to-be hot day for his friends to celebrate life and to remember him. —Bill Boykin

Jim Fauss was our smiling bodhisattva. He perfected smiling meditation. Whenever I remember him smiling, I smile too. He has an immortal smile, which he taught to the people who rode his bus. A passenger pulled the bell cord, and Jim took a joyful breath and smiled. That smile flowered on the faces of the passengers, who passed it on to the many people they met. Jim's smile multiplies.

Jim spoke Vietnamese and Spanish to the people on the bus. He especially liked practicing Vietnamese and Spanish with the children. How miraculous it is for me to know that a veteran speaking Vietnamese welcomed those immigrants and children of immigrants to America.

Jim is a home-boy to me. We both lived and worked in Stockton; we're exactly the same age. We have friends and place and time in common. It is so good to know that Stockton and Modesto and Salida—the wild west, the valley towns—can bring forth and nourish a smiling bodhisattva.

Artie and Jim are one of the few couples in our writing sangha. They were marriage partners and writing partners. They sat and walked together holding hands. Their long and loving marriage inspires us. Their love embraced others. When our veterans writing group met with peace activist Grace Paley, Artie and Jim made her feel at home. Artie wrote one of her strongest war and peace stories. And Jim spoke with understanding of war and peace veterans.

My homie Jim traveled from Stockton, to Modesto, to Salida, to Sebastopol, to Oakland, to Berkeley, to Albany, to Vietnam, and to Plum Village. How lucky I am to have had this smiling companion on so many journeys. —Maxine Hong Kingston

I remember Jim Fauss by his smile. At Jim's memorial service, several people spoke of his smile. Apparently all who knew him now treasure their inheritance, Jim's bestowal of his smile to us. Jim's smile was affirming, sometimes humorous, always inviting. As I remember his smile now, I see a face that lived from light and was open to silence. I didn't spend much time with Jim, but I knew him. I loved his smile, still do. I don't need a picture to see Jim smiling. I can enjoy it all my life. —Jim Janko

Jim and I met at the 1993 retreat at Camp Swig. His cushion was next to my bench in the main hall for that week. Even though the retreat was silent, much authentic communication can transpire in shared silence. We had some time to talk in which he shared how he came to know Thay. He truly knew what it meant to "walk through the fire" in life, learning how to transform prior experiences into gold. Our mutual gestures of greeting, his wonderful smile, and his great humility will stay with me as tributes to his peaceful presence in life. —Susan Murphy

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