From the last time I saw her she is totally changed physically following a series of incapacitating strokes. Only her eyes and her spirit remain the same. She is terribly frail, bedbound, almost emaciated, with contractures of her arms so she holds them over her chest. She can only move her shoulders in a kind of shrug, and she can move her head from side to side with difficulty. She can't speak and can swallow only with help.
I gave her a few teaspoons of a drink and had to hold her mouth closed so she could swallow it, but most came out again. Her beautiful hair is gone and most of her teeth. Waveney who was always so immaculate about her appearance and so vivid in her attire had a tuft of white bristle on her chin. But she gave a little chuckle when I told her through my tears that I was her "naughty boy" (she gave me this label because I was rather cavalier with Tibetan Buddhist niceties), and she was my Dancing Dakini (because of her girlish tendency to dance at any invitation), and she chuckled when I kissed and nuzzled her cheek.
We spent an hour together and most of the time I just gazed at her, but I told her a few stories and reminisced a bit about the IWS. We spent a few minutes in shared quietness of the heart. On her locker I left a little vajrasattva statue with a sweet face that sometimes came to our London meetings. It has a dancing mien and he holds the vajra of compassion to his heart and the bell of wisdom in his lap. I keep seeing her in my mind's eye and feel her holding me in her heart as I write.
She is truly a great and inspiring bodhisattva, little West Indian immigrant nurse, "three parts Tibetan, two parts Scottish Presbyterian, with a twist of Japanese from a former life". How wonderful to know her, and to have found her again. I shall hope to go again soon, but I said Goodbye as well as Farewell. She is on Morphine patches for pain (probably muscle-contractures, but who knows?). I don't know if she really recognised me, but it doesn't matter does it? The moment we spent together, and all we have shared over the years, is a blessed gift of dharma, and I am so grateful.
Waveney Miller is a long-standing supporter of the Buddhist Hospice Trust and she has been a Trustee for about twenty years. She and I met at the Inner Work School meetings hosted by Ray Wills from 1990 onwards. She attended very regularly, travelling up from Ashford in Kent where she had her home. Over the years we became close friends and, not infrequently, conversational sparring partners at meetings. We used to clash about everything! Waveney is a disciple of Rigdzin Shikpo Longchen Foundation) and follows the Tibetan Maha-Ati/Dzogchen tradition; I often chided her that she was three parts Tibetan Buddhist and two parts Scottish Presbyterian, as she had very pronounced evangelising and missionary tendencies with most people she met: once cornered by Waveney with a discourse on karma few escaped with their scepticism intact about rebirth in the hell realm.
Waveney was born and raised in the West Indies of Afro-Caribbean parentage, although she knew that she had in a former life lived in Japan, and has strong Scottish ancestry. Waveney trained as a State Registered Nurse in her home country, following the noblest traditions of Nightingale Nursing that had been carried there by the Scottish Presbyterian missionary doctors and nurses who colonised that land. In the late 1950s/early 1960s she travelled to England to work as a nurse in London.
At some point her feet carried her, unaccountably, to the steps of the Buddhist Society premises at 50 Ecclestone Square near Victoria station (see image above). She faltered for a moment, she says, at the threshold, but eventually overcame her shyness, rang the doorbell and was met by Christmas Humphreys, who invited her in. In this manner was Waveney Miller, a young Afro-Caribbean immigrant nurse newly arrived in a strange land and with firmly entenched Christian beliefs, set upon the Noble Eight-Limbed Path, of her own volition. She has never deviated from the Path in fifty years. I owe her so much, but Waveney would never see what she gave so freely as incurring any kind of indebtedness.