For all the friends and community of Santi, I have the sad duty of passing on some tragic news. Our good friend Darryl Gradwell passed away yesterday (Monday 25 Jan). His death was sudden, and comes as a shock to all of us. We have no details as yet as to how it happened, but we’ll keep you informed as we find out. Darryl was staying on retreat with Bhante Jag at the retreat place in Laguna.
Darryl first came to the monastery a couple of years ago. He was suffering terribly from MS, and at the time had to spend most of his time resting and just coping. (I don’t know whether the MS has anything to do with his death.) But he stayed on, and his interest in Buddhism and meditation just grew and grew. In all his time here he was totally devoted to practice, and was a loved and respected member of our little community.
His struggles with MS became so bad that for several months he could hardly speak, and communicated only by writing. This became too much, so he left and spent several months by himself. He loved staying in nature, and would often spend time simply sleeping in caves or on the beach. Eventually he found a treatment that made his MS regress, and he returned, back to more or less full strength.
In his long stretches at Santi, he helped us in many ways, giving advice on buildings and development; if you visit Santi and see our beautiful, unique semi-spherical shrine upstairs, that’s one of Darryl’s ideas. He was also an amazing artist, who drew dozens of extraordinary pencil sketches for a book of mine, as well as many others. In his last month, he was drawing and taking notes of conversations constantly, all of which showed his amazing gifts for observation, and delight in the wisdom and quirks of human beings.
As well as his dedication to solitary meditation, Darryl always took a great interest in people. When our fairy grandmother Eva was ‘a little ill’ (translate: recovering from a triple bypass), Darryl would walk with her every day, and monitor her food, making sure she didn’t eat anything naughty. Every meal time there’d be signs on each inappropriate dish saying something like, ‘Eva, don’t even think about it!’
Darryl also contributed to Santi through being a committee member, and through helping organise our Sydney talks. I especially remember and value the few times when we had a difference of opinion, and he’d be straight enough to tell me why he disagreed, offering another perspective that was always worth listening to.
It’s been an honour to know Darryl, and to see him constantly learn and grow through these past years. Of all the many people who pass through Santi, he is perhaps the one to best embody the life of simplicity. Even though he was an accomplished architectural designer with his own firm, he lived with literally next to nothing. In his little retreat cave there’s be just a simple bed, mosquito net, a couple of books on meditation, and not much else. He had so much to give in his life, and asked so little. It’s tragic to see him pass away so young, but he has lived a great life, with friends, meditation, art, and wisdom. I don’t know where he is now, but I’m sure he’ll be drawing it.