Sangha News Memorial Index On Death and Dying
Margret Kress Memorial Page
7-11-07 - Andrew Main writes about the photos of Thomas Kelly, one of which Maggie Kress might have been admiring when she had her fatal stroke, others on the Aghora of India who practice in graveyards and more.
8-16-07 - Andrew communicates with Kelly.
6-25-07 - Margret Kress
died last night surrounded by her family.
On Friday, June 22nd Maggie, as a lot of us called her, had a dinner party at her home in Santa Fe. As I understand it, she was looking at a book on Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage sites and had just said she'd like to go on a pilgrimage to these places when she collapsed. She was taken to a hospital in an ambulance. She was still alive but showed no brain activity. She was put on life support until her sisters could arrive. Last night the life support was unplugged and she passed away completely.
Maggie is survived by her daughter, Tiare who is married and has a baby, and by her sisters Diana, Francesca, and Jocelyn. (sp?)
There will be a service in Santa Fe. Details posted as they come in.
On July 7 there will be a Tibetan Buddhist funeral service at Dorje Khyung Dzong Retreat Center which is walking distance from Maggie's Colorado country place.
Melissa Robinson of the Dorje Khyung Dzong Retreat Center writes:
We had a very nice community wide "Circle of Friends" at Maggie's Ranch on Saturday and a Tibetan Buddhist funeral service here on Sunday morning with family and close friends.
6-24-07 - Here's the original post: Very sad news about dearest friend and dharma sister, Margret Kress. Thanks to Steve Stucky, Michael Wenger, and Linda Ruth Cutts for forwarding this message.
Dear Friends, I wanted to let you know that Maggie Kress, one of the old timers of Zen Center, and former assistant to Suzuki Roshi had a major aneurism on Friday, June 22 at her home in Santa Fe. She was hooked up to life support pending the arrival of her family and then they plan to let her die naturally.
6-27-07 - A service was held for Maggie Kress last night at 6pm in Santa Fe, NM.
Andrew Main wrote: I just went by Maggie's house, where I found a number of her relatives and friends taking care of things, and was told there will be a memorial service for her there this evening (Tuesday, 26 June). Friends are welcome to arrive from 4pm on to sit with her (I didn't ask specifically, but got the impression her body is still there), and a service will be conducted at 6pm. The house is at 500 Camino de las Animas, at the corner of Camino Atalaya.
by Andrew Main
MARGRET KRESS, 1943-2007
A memorial service was held for Margret (Maggie) Kress at her house in Santa Fe on Tuesday, 26 June.
Maggie's former body was lying on a high table in a small shrine room, covered in flowers and draped with khatas (Tibetan greeting/ceremonial scarves). There was also a table in the main room with what looked like about 60 votive candles, which people gradually lit until all were burning through the evening. A guest book was signed by everyone present, and copies of what I was told was one of Maggie's favorite photos of herself were available.
Friends began arriving about 4pm to sit with her. As I appeared to be the representative of the Zen Center part of Maggie's life, I put on my rakusu and sat with her for about forty minutes. A lama arrived and did a short ceremony, and we all chanted Om mani peme hung with him.
About 6pm everyone went outside, where rows of chairs were set up under a canopy. There were about 60 people, quite a varied crowd; Maggie touched a lot of lives and had many friends. The lama, Geshe Tashi Gyaltsen, a longtime friend of Maggie now living in Santa Fe, and another lama (an older Western man in full Tibetan regalia with a long white beard, didn't get his name) did some blessings and chants, and we all read a selection from the Bardo Thödol to assist the departed in navigating the passage after death (see below).
Maggie's oldest sister Diana Hadley announced that she is a historian, and wants to put together a history of Maggie's life, so would appreciate any stories or information anyone can share with her (see below). Several people stood and spoke, including Maggie's brother John, a couple of her sisters, a niece and a nephew, her daughter Tiare and her husband Eric, Maggie's dear Hopi friend Delbridge Honanie, one of her doctors (whom Maggie had visited earlier that very Friday), and other friends.
Tom Kelly, a Santa Fe old timer (so I was told) who has lived for many years in Nepal, shared the story of Maggie's final evening. She had invited him and several others for dinner, and they were looking at a book Tom had produced with pictures of pilgrimage sites in Tibet. Maggie expressed a strong desire to visit some of these sites, in particular Mount Kailash. Tom -- feeling, I suppose, that in view of her advancing age and not-too-robust health, the hardships of such a pilgrimage to faraway, difficult and high-altitude places might be excessive -- remarked that such an "external" pilgrimage is not always necessary, that it's the internal pilgrimage that counts. But Maggie was adamant; she wanted to go there. So they began to discuss logistics, and how Tom could set up the journey for her. She had the book open on her lap, and suddenly her head fell forward, her face alighting directly on a photo of Mount Kailash. Thus were Margret Kress's last moments in this world.
See more on Tom Kelly and his photographs, especially the one of Mount Kailash.
As noted in the previous announcement, she'd had a cerebral hemorrhage, and apparently died more or less immediately -- i.e. brain function ceased, so in Buddhist terms she must have left the body, though the body's functions were sustained by life-support systems until Sunday evening, so family and friends could gather and be with her. One friend, for instance, told how she visited the hospital Sunday morning, and chanted and prayed with Maggie for several hours.
After maybe a dozen people had spoken, Maggie's brother said it was maybe time to adjourn to dinner, and at that moment the lawn sprinklers started up (on a timer, apparently) and everybody got wet. Everyone agreed that was just like Maggie's life -- the word "chaotic" was heard often, along with rich, varied, full, etc. And of course it was clear how much love Maggie gave everyone she knew in her very varied life.
A fine evening followed, with a catered dinner and drinks, and much visiting and conversation into the darkness. So far as I know, the only other person there with any connection to Zen Center was Jonathan Altman, who was at Tassajara I gather in the late 1960s, before my time. There were many from the Santa Fe Tibetan Buddhist scene, including Lobsang Lhalungpa and his wife Gisela Minke, Marcia Keegan and Harman Houghton, and others, and people from the Santa Fe art and cultural community. (Many familiar faces, now I've been here over twenty years, but I don't know many names.) There was even a small group of what I guess were people from Mexico (several of them spoke no English); Maggie had been very involved with immigration issues in recent years. A lot of old friends met again, and new friends were made.
The rakusu I'd worn while sitting with Maggie's body prompted a fellow named Austin Laughlin to ask what was my connection with Zen. I told him the story, and he told me a story in return. He was a student of Trungpa Rinpoche and friend of Maggie who lives near her Colorado place; he told me about the first meeting between Trungpa and Suzuki Roshi, in which Maggie was involved. I gather this was at Tassajara, when Maggie was Suzuki's anja.
Trungpa arrived, and she was leading him into wherever was Suzuki's office (the zendo building?); it had been raining, and everyone's shoes were very muddy. Maggie told Trungpa they should take off their shoes at the entrance, as all we good Zen students know, but he said he couldn't, as his (right?) shoe was part of his leg-brace arrangement (he had one crippled foot from his famous auto accident that precipitated his disrobing and career-direction change). So his shoes stayed on, and he tracked mud across the floor, and when Maggie knocked on Suzuki's door and he opened it and looked out, he first saw the mud and was incensed (as any good Zen master must be). But then Maggie told him, "This is Trungpa Rinpoche," and Suzuki looked up, there was an immediate meeting of minds and hearts between the two Buddhist teachers, and the mud was entirely forgotten.
[Suzuki and Trungpa first met at Tassajara. I remember him wearing his shoes into the zendo to give a talk. They first met in the dining room where shoes are permitted. I was there. Not that I remember much. - DC]
Thus has this occasion been remembered in Trungpa's community, anyway.
As someone remarked, this was Maggie's last and greatest party; she was certainly present in spirit, and a wonderful time was had by all.
Maggie's niece Sadie told me that as she was going through Maggie's papers she found some on the death-preparation practice of Phowa, in which apparently she was engaged. In fact she had recently attended a retreat with a visiting lama, and studied Phowa with him. That teacher, when he heard what had happened, insisted on visiting Maggie in the hospital and said some prayers for her. Maggie was well prepared for this passage. Amongst her friends there were some tears, of course, but mostly a firm confidence: Maggie's doing fine.
The body which was formerly Margret Kress is to be cremated today, 28 June 2007.
As noted, there will be a memorial in Colorado on July 7, and there was talk (nothing firm as yet) of something in New York, where Maggie's sister Francesca lives.
Maggie's sister Diana would like to hear of any stories or reminiscences Maggie's friends might like to share. Such can be sent to David Chadwick at this site's email, and he will pass them on.
In an email of 7-8-07 Andrew ads: BTW, I just had a conversation with Charles (Chuck) Hoy, who was also briefly at Maggie's memorial. I thought I might have seen him step briefly into the room while I was sitting with Maggie's body, but wasn't sure if it was him, and he was gone by the time I came out, so I didn't mention him in the report. So that's another ZC person who was there. He says he was on the way to deliver his son to camp, so couldn't stay. I haven't seen him in years, actually, but when I saw his name on the Alumni list I checked and found he is still in Santa Fe. I suggested he visit cuke.com and check in on the Alumni list [Tassajara Early Alumni List].
Jonathon Altman's version over the phone of how Maggie died was that she was looking at the photo of Mount Kailash and Tom Kelly was telling her about how Buddhists go there to circumambulate it and there is a special inner circumambulation for those who've done the outer one three times - something like that - and that Maggie was saying she wanted to do it and then said she'd go there and die and that at that moment she collapsed. - DC
Oh, Maggie, do not be afraid of what surrounds you. Recognize all appearances to be a manifestation of your own luminous mind.
Your life in this existence is over. Do not be afraid to leave and continue on. Now is not the time for regrets or to recapture that which has been left behind. Your friends and family are saying good- bye, so that you may find peace and calm in a new existence.
Do not cling to the memory of this life which is fraught with suffering. The body which you inhabited will be no more. With a mind calm and free of fear, enter a state of happiness in a new embodiment.
Recognize that all appearances you experience whether frightful or serene are the nature of your own basic luminosity. Do not cling to illusion, for it is illusion which surrounds you at this time.
Nothing is ever lost. We will meet again, we pray, in better circumstances. Say good-bye to this world, your friends and family. Let the love of your friends and family guide you to a better rebirth.
Concentrate on all that surrounds you as the play of emptiness and awareness. Without clinging to this life, or fear of what is to come, enter into the light, which is the basic wisdom and clarity of your own mind.
(This prayer was taken from the Bardo Thödol and can be useful when facing the death of a loved one or after they have passed on in order to encourage an easy transition and a better rebirth. This prayer should be repeated along with other recitations during the 49 days following the death.)
I met Maggie Kress during my first year at Zen Center (1972), when she and Niels Holm were living across the street; we used to go to the Farmer's Market together on Saturday mornings for a community buying club. I didn't know her well, only briefly, but she seemed very nice -- perhaps partly due to what I only recently learned was the affinity of our having both been born in the same year (the Water Sheep, 1943 -- Maggie in Pisces, I in Virgo). Though I can't say I ever knew her well, when I did see her she felt like a sister.
When I first visited New Mexico in 1981, Maggie kindly hosted me in Taos for several days, generously introducing me to people and places and Southwest culture. After I came here to live in the mid-1980s, I saw her now and then, attended a few of her wonderful parties. The last decade or so I've been in informal "retreat" due to health difficulties, not socializing much, but have seen her occasionally when she needed computer help.
When we are young of course we hear about death, and experience it perhaps with someone(s) close to us. We hear about a time of life, unimaginably far off, when -- if we are lucky (?) -- we will find everyone we know dying around us; but now that time has come and the avalanche (which will certainly, sooner or later, carry me away as well) is beginning, I see how impossible it is to communicate what it is like to a younger person.
By a curious coincidence, earlier the same day (Tuesday the 26th) I had a reunion lunch with an old friend from my youth (before ZC) who was visiting Santa Fe; at least half our conversation, I'd guess, was about those of our group who have departed in recent years. And so it goes.
Having recently endured a lengthy ordeal with a friend, incapacitated by some mysterious illness (nobody ever figured it out, but I think it was mostly simple exhaustion) and mostly bed-ridden and fighting his decline every inch for six years before he finally, mercifully died, I can appreciate the mercy of a quick departure such as this. And what could be more appropriate for one of us idiosyncratic free-lance Dharma students than to spend our last moments in this world forming the intention to go on pilgrimage to the mystical center of the Buddhist world?
(A good friend -- not a ZC person -- is at this moment on pilgrimage in India with Lama Dudjom Dorje and a group from Dallas; she has some serious health problems, and told me she had a suspicion she might not return, what with high-altitude air travel, the danger of blood clots, etc. Well, I said, if you must leave so early -- age 52 -- what better way? It is traditionally auspicious, in Christendom as well, to die while on pilgrimage.)
So many people seem to be so unready to meet what we all must meet. Maggie, at least, with her sincere devotion to Dharma practice, was reasonably well prepared. Though of course I'm sad to hear of her departure, I feel somehow confident that she's doing well in the next bardo.
And I'm grateful for the teaching her departure has given me. Someone told me, "She's in that room," and I went in the room but no one was there, only a corpse, which is truly not a person, but a lifeless physical object. It's a shock, because of course we expect something with that form to be alive. I caught myself looking closely to see if she was breathing: even when someone is very still, the chest will still be moving. But the corpse was not breathing; that's exactly what corpses aren't doing. Like too many in our culture, I have not much experience of death; this is only the third time I have seen a dead body. It had a human face, but it looked like waxworks. Really, no one was home. Which makes compellingly clear that the body must not be our real home. "All compounded things decay."
So where was Maggie, on this evening of her last and greatest party? I doubt she was in the room with the lifeless body. She was out where the party was, if anywhere. And she was in the bardo, where -- if the Tibetans have it right (and though I certainly have no way of knowing, the Bardo Thödol scenario makes more sense than anything else I have come across) -- she is negotiating the passage to the next life. And, though I'm sure it is complicated and probably not easy, I somehow feel she is doing fine.
Which is a great help to me. It is possible to prepare for death, and such preparation can make the passage not simply something fearsome and hopeless, but -- if not easy or painless -- at least something that can be done, with at least the possibility of a constructive outcome. And the actual circumstances of Maggie's sudden departure were really too marvelous to be simply "coincidental". I often recall something Reb said once: that we all decide when to die, and then pick an excuse.
I noticed how matter-of-fact and cheerful the lama was, as he chanted prayers and sprinkled water over the body. Death holds no terrors for him, I suspect. I feel ever more profoundly grateful for the gift of the Dharma -- truly, good at the beginning, good at the middle, and good at the end.
Maggie was a warm and generous heart, very concerned about the suffering of beings. She worked as some kind of nurse, both locally and, in recent years, in Mexico. Her sojourns and computer difficulties in Mexico decided her to switch from a Macintosh to a Windows notebook, so I didn't hear so much from her lately. She'd call now and then with some Mac-to-Windows computer question; last time I spoke with her was maybe a year ago.
I can hear her voice. Maggie, dear Dharma sister, go with blessings and carry on -- as I'm sure you will. Will we meet again in the next life? Why not? I'm up for another great dinner party.
P.S.: Here's a direct link to the photo of Mt. Kailash which I suspect -- I like to think, anyway -- might have been the one Maggie was looking at [when she had the stroke].
In the radio interview, the photographer (Thomas Kelly) said the Chinese are now building roads and other development around the mountain, so I guess things will be different there pretty soon. I suppose at least we can hope they won't build a tram to the top. "Everything changes."
Here is story for Maggie's sister:
At the end of session in the Fall of 1968 most of us were very ardent and concerned about succeeding at pushing through to enlightenment and being warrior Zen students. Because of this many of us presented ourselves to Roshi (one by one in the line awaiting our turn according to custom) with discouragement about the quality and results of our effort. When Maggie presented herself she seemed somewhat shy, and perhaps even lacking in self esteem, yet she asked the most courageous question, given the context. She said something to the effect of, "Roshi, what if I don't care about getting enlightened, can I still practice?" Roshi very passionately responded, "Just stay honest and open the way you are right now!" I have forgotten most things over the past 40 years but that moment of Maggie stays in my heart.
Well gone Maggie!
Jack [Elias] -
MARGRET "MAGGIE" CONNOR KRESS
Born February 28, 1943 in New York City, died June 24, 2007 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
She was the daughter of Rush H. Kress of Slatington, Pennsylvania, and Virginia Watkins Kress of Maysville, Kentucky. She is survived by her daughter Maria Tiare Jacobo (married to Erik) and granddaughter Victoria; sisters Diana Hadley (married to Peter Warshall) of Tucson, Jocelyn Kress, and Francesca Kress-Mayberry (Jack) of New York; brother Jonathan Kress (married to Andrea Ibanez) of Tucson; 11 nieces and nephews and 8 grand-nieces and nephews.
She was a graduate of Radcliffe College, Harvard University. She worked as a Registered Nurse at various hospitals and health clinics in Colorado and Santa Fe, was active all her life in the art world and owned an art gallery in Taos during the 1970's, promoted Native American artists and at the time became director of Artists Hopid. Margret worked at the Getty Museum in the 1980's and curated a show of the work of Andre Kertesz at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Margret was most recently working on a book of interviews concerning the humanitarian crisis on the US-Mexican border. She was a devout Buddhist, a student of Suzuki Roshi, a resident of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the early 1970's [and late sixties], a disciple of Ganden Tri Rinpoche (Tara Tulku) and Lama Rinchen of Katmandu, Nepal, and was a friend and follower of His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests tax deductible donations be made to Arizona Friends of Tibet, P.O. Box 31596, Tucson, AZ 85751, Maggie Kress Memorial; donations will be distributed to Tibetan orphanages and charities.
A memorial will be held at her home in Santa Fe at 6 PM, Tuesday, the 26th of June. Please call (505) 982 5962 for further information. A memorial will also be held in Gardner, Colorado on July 7th. Please contact Dorje Kung Dzong (DKD) at (719) 746-2264 for details.
Thanks to Andrew Main for sending this obit and the photos of Maggie which he scanned from her scrapbook. - DC
on her wedding]
with Dainin Katagiri, officiating priest
With Louise [now Pryor] and Dan Welch
In the zendo for the ceremony
Maggie and Niels at a Tassajara day off picnic
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