It is with great sadness that we announce that Pau Nyima Dhondup, the last of three FSS Living Treasures residing in a refugee camp in Nepal passed on September 19, 2013. FSS Field Associate Sarah Sifers was making her annual visit to the camp at the time and provided the following report. Sarah spent many years learning from the Paus at the camp and providing assistance to the people there.
Sunday as I was sitting with Tashi (Pau Nyima’s wife), she shared that Pau Nyima always spoke about his and mine special connection. That during this past summer, when he was so ill, he asked each day if I was coming. That he wanted to be able to see me one more time. And so we did….getting to sit together one last time holding hands and smiling at each other. He looked good. I actually came a week earlier than usual…how thankful am I about that decision.
Yesterday, I made my way to the camp at 4 AM. Tashi had asked that I participate as a family member in the offering of a final kata (Tibetan greeting scarf) and flower malla to his body before it was taken from the house down to the cremation place at 5 AM. What an honor. I arrived at the camp as the men were washing his body with milk. I had the honor of putting the first kata across his body…and became part of the procession that carried his body to the cremation place. Pau Rhichoe‘s son Singye …and Pau Wangchuk‘s son Trinley stayed by my side the entire time. As I stood by Pau Nyima’s funeral pyre, I said my final good-bye…thanking him for his friendship and wishing him a safe passage through the Bardo. They say it was ‘done well’. At the time of his death, rainbows appeared in the cloudless sky. And one appeared again during the cremation. An auspicious sign.
Pau Nyima looked at life with the eyes of a child filled with wonderment. He would become so animated when he told stories that his voice would rise and fall in pitch and he would trill his ‘r’s’ and gesture with his arms. His laugh frequently became a giggle. He called me ‘Sister’…using the English word. If others were with us, he would pretend to need them to translate. But if we were alone, he’d chat with me in English and Nepali…only to go mute when the translator came back into the room. He outfitted me with all that is needed to be a Tibetan shaman…although this tradition, they believe, can only be practiced by a male in their lineage who has had a calling at puberty. He asked me once if, when I was in the airplane, the sun was above me or below me…and was the sun above the clouds. When I said that yes, the sun was above the clouds, he slapped his leg and shouted “I knew it..that is how shadows are made!” And when I said that even when in an airplane that was high above the clouds…still the sun was much higher, he again, slapped his leg in glee and shouted “I knew it.”
Folks in the camp are already wondering what they will do when they become ill…now that the last Tibetan shaman has passed. All I know is that I have lost a treasured friend.
Sarah Sifers, September 24, 2013