Today I celebrated the life of a Bodhisattva. Her name was (is) Anna Marie (A.M.) Collins and she is a perfect example of what a Bodhisattva looks like. She is the kindest, most compassionate human being I ever met and she taught me a lot about forgiveness and non-judgment.
I learned a few things about her today I never knew; she lived in a commune when she was in her early twenties; she studied Buddhism and Astrology; she was an AA sponsor; she wrote a successful play, “Angry Housewives” (does that name sound familiar?); she worked as a phone psychic and went on to working with dogs. Elephants were her passion. She was booked to return to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in India this spring.
A.M. died suddenly a couple weeks ago from a massive stroke, a reminder of life’s impermanence. She walked the earth for 59 years and what an impression she made while she was here. A.M. touched so many sentient beings’ lives. This is a sign she wrote and kept by her work desk:
The first time I met A.M. was when I was going through cancer treatment. She worked with my husband, John at a doggie kennel, and offered to sit with me one day while he ran errands. I was too weak to be left alone. As soon as I met her, we clicked. I felt like I knew her for a life time and this was before I studied Buddhism. I was just a chick, a very sick chick, who was trying to get through the day. A.M. brought along a book to read in case I slept through her visit. It had to do with Buddhist teachings. I don’t remember all of our conversation except that I wanted to know more about Buddhism and something called, “sentient beings”. I wanted to learn how to be like her.
Over the past five years, that I knew her, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. Last summer John was “jumped” by five teenage boys at his workplace. It was nine o’clock and he was alone at work. When he came home with a swollen eye from being punched, A.M., who was his supervisor, got an “earful” from me when I called to tell her what happened. I yelled at her for at least ten minutes. John told me a few days later, that A.M. admitted to putting the phone down so I could let off steam and she wouldn’t have to deal with all my negative energy. I laughed about that, well, sort of. I had to let it go, after all, she wasn’t the one who punched John.
Two years ago, A.M. made us a home a made Christmas card with pictures of my doggies on it. I still have it. We didn’t spend a lot of time together but we exchanged gifts many times. I treasure them now.
There are wonderful, famous Buddhist teachers, many of whom I follow, but I think the best “teachers” are the people we meet everyday. They never write books or have websites.They aren’t guests on Oprah, but the impression they make is just as “real”. They work in dog kennels, are AA sponsors, volunteer at sanctuaries, or bag your groceries. They walk the earth and make everyone they meet feel welcome, just like A.M.
She donated her organs and left her body to science. She continued to give even after she took her last breath.Thích Nhất Hạnh says we never die. We just live on as something else; the air, the trees, the wind. A.M. lives on in the bodies of a few people. Her heart continues to beat in another person fortunate enough to have it. Will this person ever know how kind she was? Who knows? I’m sure it isn’t important to A.M. She’s happy to know she could help someone who needed it.
I am grateful to have known this woman, she made my life better.
I want to carry on her legacy, and “be willing to help all beings”.
Namaste A.M. — until we meet again over the Rainbow Bridge.
Oh, I almost forgot, another friend of hers wrote a beautiful piece about her life in the local newspaper. If you would like to read it, click here.