In Memory of Nancy Jo McClellan / Seiu Shinshu 1942 – 2014


Our good friend Nancy McClellan—Seiu Shinshu/Gentle Rain Deep Resolve—passed away peacefully early on the morning of October 8 at Elmwood Care Center in Berkeley. A small circle of friends and teachers were at her bedside shortly after she passed. We set up a simple altar and chanted the Heart Sutra as we circumambulated Nancy’s body. We also had an opportunity to speak to her on this occasion of transition and closed with the Pali refuges. In the zendo that morning we sounded the densho bell 108 times to support Nancy on her journey into the unknown.

On Friday afternoon, September 19, after helping on the grounds following a wedding at BZC, Nancy was assaulted as she went to her car, which was parked on Russell Street at the corner of Otis, right across from the Zen center. What appears to have been an unsuccessful carjacking escalated quickly in violence. Despite the rapid response of Berkeley police and an emergency medical team, Nancy did not regain consciousness after the incident. She received wonderful care at Highland Hospital, and was visited by many friends over the two weeks there. Her assailant was apprehended by the police shortly after the attack and awaits trial on murder charges in Alameda County court in Oakland.

Anyone coming to BZC was likely to know Nancy. She was funny and deeply creative individual, able to catch any of us, or herself, off balance at a given moment and then be able to laugh. Whether or not one knew her personally—I find it very hard to write in the past tense—all of us around BZC enjoyed the fruits of her ceaseless work in our gardens over many years. She poured her practice and passion into our grounds—planting, weeding, pruning, watering, nurturing. It was not unusual to see Nancy mowing the lawns as the dark of evening fell.

She was also a painter (with an MFA from SF Art Institute), writer and actor, involved with improvisational theater over many years. She had a great photographic eye as well. See Nancy’s Flickr site.

A memorial ceremony, open to all of Nancy’s friends and family, will be scheduled in the near future. Meanwhile, all of us at BZC mourn Nancy’s passing, and we struggle to understand what we might learn from this moment even as we mourn.

Gate, Gate
Bodhi Svaha!

—Hozan Alan Senauke


About asenauke

Zen Buddhist priest, activist, writer, father, musician
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