Lou Albert RIP
Messages from DC, Elizabeth Sawyer, and Lou's son, Ian Albert
Lou Albert's website (might be down but will be back if so - maybe here on cuke)
5-24-2006 - Lou Albert died yesterday. Lou practiced at the Zen Center while Shunryu Suzuki was still there. I got to know him better as one of the early people at Green Gulch in 1972. I remember working with him on the zendo barn floor - chopping it with adzes (like an axe but shaped like a hoe) to the point where it could be hit with an industrial sander with #2 grit - like little pebbles. He also worked on the walls and the tans. Lou filled in the sizable holes and indentations with matching boards. He was a gentle person. I hadn't seen him in decades but had a good long phone conversation with him in April.
Thanks to Elizabeth Sawyer (see note below) for informing me of this and getting me in touch with Ian. And thanks to Ian for connecting me to Lou and sending the note below. I remember taking care of Ian at Green Gulch. Lou was sort of protective and careful what he exposed Ian to and I remember how Ian's eyes would bug out when I'd tell him gory home-made fairy tales. His favorite was the dragon that liked to eat people's eyeballs.
Ian says his mother remembers going with Lou to sit at Sokoji with Suzuki way back in 1967 when she was pregnant with Ian.
3-31-06 email from Elizabeth Sawyer - Dear friends, As some of you know, Our friend Lou Albert who lived at Green Gulch with Ian one of his two sons and practiced with us at Zen Center for many years has been recovering from and in treatment for cancer. He is feeling better and is trying to sell his art work to help offset recent medical costs. Please take a look at Lou Albert's website and send it to anyone who may be interested in supporting him.
7-06-07 - Ian writes:
Unfortunately Lou's website is down right now. I have the domain, but it's no longer being hosted. I plan to redesign the website with additional biographical information, but I haven't had the time to work on it. Thanks for staying in touch. Too bad I don't remember those fairy tales!
Lou died yesterday, May 23rd at 3:17 pm. In the larger scope, perhaps, it was an untimely end to a remarkable life. But for those of us who had the fortune to spend the last days, hours and minutes with him, Lou's passing was right, natural and beautiful. It was also just how I think he wanted it--his intention to be as conscious, open and generous as possible throughout the process was clear, and that created a foundation upon which we could all come together to participate in an unbelievably powerful and loving farewell.
It's hard to believe that just 14 days ago we found out that the chemo was no longer effective and that rather than being on the way toward a cure or remission, Lou was going to die from this cancer. The doctors said that Lou had perhaps three to six months, but I know that Lou very quickly knew that he wanted to go much faster than that. He had told me before that he wasn't afraid of dying, he was only afraid of drawn-out suffering. As my brother Josh has said, Lou's rate of decline over his last week seemed much too rapid to be explained simply by the cancer; it seemed rather to be an amazing act of will.
He had been torn about the idea of coming out to San Francisco, since it would mean leaving so many of his friends behind. He wanted his friends and family with him at the end, and that is what he got. Over the five days prior to his death, numerous friends came by the apartment at the Forest Refuge to say goodbye and simply to sit with him. Until the final day, Lou was able to talk and express his love to everyone who came. I was here for three of those days and the atmosphere vibrated with feelings of awareness, acceptance and love. All of the hospice nurses and home care aides who came here over those days were deeply struck by what they felt here--they remarked on how unusual and special it was again and again.
Finally, the only thing that he asked over and over was when Josh would be coming. Josh had been with him while he was in the hospital only last week, but it was clear that Lou needed Josh to be here with us at the end.
The last time that Lou and I had a conversation was about 3 am yesterday morning. He had been very uncomfortable all night, and there was nothing I could do to ease him. Suddenly he said "Okay, that's it." He repeated that several times. I asked if he was ready to go right at that moment. He said that he wanted Josh. I told him again that Josh was on his way. Lou ceased talking altogether after that. Friends continued to sit with him through the morning and early afternoon. Josh arrived at 1:30pm, and less than two hours later Lou had his last breaths while Josh and I and a number of his close friends held him.
I'm glad that some of you were there with us; I wish you all could have been. Now I know how I would like to die when the time comes. Lou showed how it could be done.
ps. as per
Lou's wishes, we are having his body cremated. We will spread his ashes
here at the Forest Refuge in the community that he loved so much. A
memorial service will be held here sometime this summer, likely in June
or July. I'll let you know when we figure out the details.
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